Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Hurricane Track: No Sigh of Relief for Central Gulf Coast

A hurricane is forming today in the Gulf of Mexico, but modern weather forecasting is so advanced that the oil industry is breathing a sigh of relief at the forecast track of the hurricane. The forecast takes the hurricane toward the Rio Grande valley, well away from the Mississippi and most of the offshore oil industry. Not many oil platforms will have to shut down for this first hurricane of the season.

There is no such sigh of relief for the salt marshes in the Mississippi delta, however. The hurricane will pass by a short distance away, and waves from the hurricane will easily splash over the booms that, on calm days, have been keeping the oil spill out of the marshes. Three or four days of choppy surf could, depending on the currents, wash tons of oil into marsh areas, potentially destroying some of them. At the same time, the hurricane track is to the left of the oil spill area, which will cause minor coastal flooding. Ordinarily this kind of flooding would not bother anyone, but in the presence of an oil spill and waves, it could carry oil miles from the outer shorelines into the swamps.

These effects are speculation at this point — the significant waves haven’t arrived in the spill area yet — but these are people who know what they’re talking about:

Tommy Stevenson, Tuscaloosanews.com: Tropical Storm Alex’s path is NOT good news

Reuters: Hurricane Alex to hamper BP's oil spill containment

The Weather Channel: Hurricane Update