As feverishly as volunteers have been working to lay boom and collect oiled wildlife on the beaches of the Gulf Coast, most knew it was only a matter of time before Earth’s natural weather cycles threatened to undo everything they’ve been able to accomplish.
Tropical Storm Alex, the first named storm of the 2010 Atlantic Basin hurricane season, is gathering strength in the western Caribbean, and forecasters aren’t yet sure whether it will hit the massive oil spill in the Gulf.
If it reaches the Gulf, the storm’s potential for 40-knot winds would force the tankers, the Q4000 and the Discoverer Enterprise, to disconnect and withdraw for safety reasons, leaving the oil flowing at full velocity and unabated (Telegraph UK).
Currently, BP’s containment cap is said to be filtering more than 20,000 barrels (840,000 gallons) of oil a day from the water, only around one third of the maximum estimated leak, according to government figures.
As paltry as this figure is when compared to the massive amount of oil that’s already been released into the ocean, discontinuing this effort would represent a major setback for clean-up efforts.
Although there is some hope that a storm of this magnitude would help to “weather” the oil, thus assisting with a more rapid breakdown process, or even push the oil spil away from the coastline if it passes on the eastern edge of the spill, it’s likely that it would “bring some of the vast amounts of oil that is now lurking in great underwater plumes up to the surface, and then blow it onto beaches and marshes” (New York Daily News).
Hurricane season began June 1 and ends Nov. 30.
The peak period for big storms is between August and October, but storms in June and July are more likely to head into the Gulf, as opposed to traveling up the Atlantic coast.
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Image Credit: deepwaterhorizonresponse
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Zac Crawford.