What does TS Alex mean for the oil spill?

June 26, 2010 5:23:47 AM PDT
With a tropical storm projected to be in the Gulf, the clock is ticking a lot faster for crews trying to stop the oil spill. They've been working on a quick plan to evacuate if it becomes necessary. The Coast Guard says it needs five days to move everything out of the way of a storm. There is more than a mile of oil pipe to pick up under water, 18 ROVs to retrieve and some slow moving, but very expensive, ships to get out of the way. And they're running out of time to do it.

The storm is not menacing the oil spill yet. But the Coast Guard may have to get out of its way long before the storm decides where it's going.

"This will be the first time, and there is no playbook," said Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen. "But I will tell you there has been an extraordinary amount of planning being done, between the folks of the National Incident Command, the Unified Area Command and our incident commanders on the ground."

But all the plans include getting all this stuff out of the way and likely moving people off the beaches where they're cleaning up oil, too. It'll be 10 days of free flowing oil into the Gulf.

"That bothers me," said Oceanographer Dr. John Anderson of Rice University. "The analogy I like to use is the effect of this hurricane is going to be a lot like firing a shotgun into a tree full of blackbirds."

When you do that, the blackbirds scatter. When a storm comes through, so will the oil. So what was a relatively compact spill, will be far more widespread after the storm.

The good news, if there is any, is for Texans. The storm tracks come from the southwest and would likely blow oil towards Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida and Alabama and not towards us.

"The worst thing is for Louisiana," said Dr. C. Vipulanandan with the University of Houston. "It's going to pick up all this and move it inland. Texas will be the least of concerns, but you cannot rule out anything when the hurricane comes."


Load Comments