MIAMI — The remnants of Tropical Storm Bonnie weakened further on Saturday and it appeared less likely to gain strength as it moved through the U.S. oil patch in the Gulf of Mexico, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
"We think that the system no longer has a threat of becoming a tropical storm again," said Lixion Avila, a senior forecaster at the Miami-based hurricane center.
He said Bonnie, which was downgraded from a tropical storm to a depression on Friday as it weakened on its trek from the Caribbean, across Florida into the Gulf, could dissipate into a broad area of low pressure if its sustained winds fall another 5 miles (8 km) per hour or so later on Saturday morning.
The approach of the storm has hampered efforts by BP Plc to permanently plug its leaking oil well in the Gulf.
It also prompted oil and natural gas producers to evacuate many offshore workers, shutting in nearly 30 percent of Gulf oil production and about 10 percent of gas output.
The Gulf of Mexico is home to about 30 percent of U.S. oil production, 11 percent of natural gas production and more than 43 percent of U.S. refinery capacity.
Avila said there was still some chance the storm would re-strengthen as it churned over warm Gulf waters en route toward the mouth of the Mississippi River late Saturday night.
But the storm has become less organized and strenthening was becoming less likely.
Bonnie was the second named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, which began on June 1 and runs through Nov. 30.
Forecasters say this year's hurricane season is expected to be especially active.