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Hurricane Irma, Still Off US Coast, Already Wreaks Economic Havoc

Eduardo Soriano of Miami waits in a line since dawn to purchase plywood sheets at a Home Depot store in North Miami, Florida, Sept. 6, 2017.

Hurricane Irma, still heading for the U.S., already has caused more than 1,000 flight cancellations, raised orange juice prices and prompted investors to sell the stocks of cruise ship companies, insurance firms, and travel companies, even before economists could finish adding up the cost of Hurricane Harvey, which recently slammed Houston, Texas.

Wednesday, the U.S. central bank said Harvey caused "broad disruptions to economic activity" along the Gulf Coast, including closed refineries, flooded workplaces, and disrupted transportation of goods and people. reports Hurricane Irma already has forced airlines to cut 1,074 flights and close at least nine airports. More flight disruptions are expected as Irma gets closer to Miami, where American Airlines normally operates more than 600 flights a day.

Earlier, Hurricane Harvey forced airlines to cancel nearly 11,000 flights at Houston, a major hub for United-Continental. That airline said the lost revenue and higher fuel costs due to Harvey will hurt its profitability, and its stock fell Wednesday.

Harvey closed one-fifth of the U.S. refining capacity — crimping gasoline supplies, raising fuel prices, and reducing demand for crude oil. Gasoline prices eased recently as some refineries reopened. While Irma is an even stronger storm than Harvey, it is not clear if it will hit oil industry facilities in the Gulf region.

Irma also is worrying investors, who hold certain insurance company stocks. Several firms saw their share prices fall as the dangerous and powerful storm appeared headed for the heavily-populated U.S. state of Florida.