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HOUSTON (Reuters) - Hurricane Ida weakened to a Category 1 hurricane on Monday as it headed towards oil and gas facilities in the central Gulf of Mexico after killing 124 people in El Salvador following floods and mudslides.
Ida's top sustained winds fell to 90 miles per hour (145 kph) and was expected to weaken further in the next 24 hours, the U.S. National Hurricane Centre said. But Ida was still expected to be a hurricane as it approached the U.S. Gulf Coast on Monday night or early on Tuesday, bringing heavy rains.
Ida was forecast to hit somewhere between Louisiana and Florida.
U.S. oil companies were shutting production and evacuating workers from the Gulf in the face of Ida.
Oil rose more than $1 to above $78 a barrel on Monday on fears the hurricane would cut U.S. oil and gas supplies.
Several large producers shut down some oil and gas production as a precautionary measure.
The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, the only terminal in the United States capable of handling the largest tankers, stopped unloading ships due to stormy seas.
A quarter of U.S. oil and 15 percent of its natural gas are produced from fields in the Gulf and the coast is home to 40 percent of the nation's refining capacity.
In El Salvador, rivers burst their banks and hillsides collapsed under relentless rains triggered by Ida's passage, cutting off parts of the mountainous interior from the rest of the country.
El Salvador's government said 124 people were killed as mudslides and floods swept away rudimentary houses.
The bulk of the Central American country's coffee is grown in areas far from the worst affects of the flooding but the national coffee association had no estimate of potential damage to the harvest.
LOUISIANA STATE OF EMERGENCY
The Miami-based hurricane Centre set a hurricane warning from Pascagoula, Mississippi, to Indian Pass, Florida, meaning hurricane conditions could be expected in the area within 24 hours.
A tropical storm warning was in effect for parts of Louisiana and Mississippi, including the city of New Orleans, which is still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency on Sunday, allowing the government to mobilise troops and rescue workers.
If Ida makes landfall in Louisiana, it would be the first storm to strike the state since Hurricane Gustav came ashore in September 2008.
At 4 a.m. EST (9:00 a.m. British time), the Centre of Ida was about 285 miles (460 km) south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River and 375 miles (605 km) south of Pensacola, Florida. Ida was expected to turn towards the north and move faster towards the Gulf Coast before veering off to the northeast on Tuesday.
Ida swept past the Mexican resort of Cancun on Sunday, doing little damage to the city.
Ida first became a hurricane on Thursday off the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua, where heavy rains forced more than 5,000 people into shelters.
The country's coffee crop was not directly affected by the storm, according to the local coffee council. (Additional reporting by Jose Cortazar and Michael O'Boyle in Cancun, Nelson Renteria in San Salvador, Ivan Castro in Managua and Erwin Seba in Houston; Writing by Peter Cooney; Editing by Eric Beech and Matthew Jones)