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Hurricane Hits 'Refinery Row'; Sidesteps Houston

Hurricane Rita's storm surges and torrential rains battered "refinery row" along the U.S. Gulf Coast, threatening many oil refineries and chemical plants in Texas and Louisiana.

The storm swept across a region including the cities of Beaumont and Port Arthur, Texas, and Lake Charles, Louisiana, but Houston, the Texas city that is the center of this country's oil-refining industry, escaped most of the storm's fury when Rita's course shifted to the east.

At least 15 refineries shut down operations even before the hurricane came ashore. Four other refineries damaged earlier by Hurricane Katrina which inundated New Orleans, also are out of action, and will not resume operations for several months.

Oil industry experts say the storms' effects have temporarily reduced the United States' crude oil refining capacity by nearly 30 percent, and most of those cutbacks will last up to a week.