- House passes VA reform compromise
- Obama admin to blame for HealthCare.gov woes, $840M cost: GAO
- Al Gore’s climate-changers at EPA hearings foiled by cool temperatures
- Army’s 3-D printed bombs will create ‘a whole new universe’ of deadly capabilities
- Hamas calls on Hezbollah to join in fight against Israel
- Senators to FIFA, others: Don’t reward Putin with the World Cup in 2018
- U.S. condemns Israeli shelling of shelter in Gaza
- Obamacare shoots premiums up by 88 percent in California
- Chicken pox outbreak puts illegal immigrant facility on lockdown
- Obama to Republicans: ‘Stop just hatin’ all the time’
Hurricane season poses new threat in Gulf
Could move crude via surf
Question of the Day
VENICE, La. | As hurricane season approaches, the giant oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico takes weather forecasters into nearly uncharted waters.
The Gulf is a superhighway for hurricanes that form or explode over pools of hot water, then usually move north or west toward the coast. The site of the sunken rig is along the general path of some of the worst storms ever recorded, including Hurricane Camille, which wiped out the Mississippi coast in 1969, and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The season officially starts Tuesday and, while scientists seem to agree that the sprawling slick isn’t likely to affect the formation of a storm, the real worry is that a hurricane might turn the millions of gallons of floating crude into a crashing black surf.
Some fear a horrific combination of damaging wind and large waves pushing oil deeper into estuaries and wetlands and coating miles of debris-littered coastline in a pungent, sticky mess.
And the worst effects of an oil-soaked storm surge might not be felt for years: If oil is pushed deep into coastal marshes that act as a natural speed bump for storm surges, areas including New Orleans could be more vulnerable to severe storms for a long time.
Experts say there are few, if any, studies on such a scenario.
In this “untreaded water … it’s tough to theorize about what would happen,” said Joe Bastardi, chief long-range hurricane forecaster with AccuWeather.com.
The lone precedent, experts agree, is the summer of 1979, when storms hampered efforts to contain a spill from a Mexican rig called Ixtoc 1 that eventually dumped 140 million gallons off the Yucatan Peninsula. Hurricane Henri, a Category 1 storm, damaged a 310-ton steel cap designed to stop the leak that would become the worst peacetime spill in history.
Still, while oil from that spill coated miles of beaches in Texas and Mexico, tropical storms and unseasonable cold fronts that year helped reverse offshore currents earlier than normal and drive oil away from the coast. Storms also helped disperse some of the oil, Mr. Bastardi said.
“That’s what I think would happen this time,” he said. “I’m sure a hurricane would do a great deal of diluting the oil, spreading it out where the concentrations would be much less damaging.”
At least 19 million gallons, according to the latest estimates, have leaked from the seabottom 5,000 feet below the surface since the April 20 explosion of BP PLC’s Deepwater Horizon rig, which killed 11. Syrupy oil has crept into Louisiana’s marshes, coating plants, killing some birds and threatening wetlands.
The threat to the marshes could have implications lasting well beyond this hurricane season. Louisiana already has lost huge swaths of coastal wetlands in recent decades, and the oil is a major threat to the long-term viability of that delicate ecosystem.
If the plants that hold the marshes together were to die at the roots, the base would wash away, leaving deeper water and less of a buffer for hurricanes, said Joseph Suhayda, director of the Louisiana State University Hurricane Center.
“That would increase the amount of surge inland,” he said.
Even without considering hurricanes, there is uncertainty about whether marsh cane and other plants will die to the roots or just above the surface from this oil spill. If the plants’ roots survive, they could come back over time. If not, the results could be catastrophic.
TWT Video Picks
- Geraldo Rivera: Matt Drudge 'doing his best to stir up a civil war'
- Catholic League slams Obama: 'Do Christian lives mean so little to you?'
- Al Gore's climate-changers at EPA hearings foiled by cool temperatures
- Lois Lerner hated conservatives, new emails show
- HURT: Impeaching Obama is a losing strategy for the GOP
- MSNBC's Ronan Farrow questions lack of racial diversity in emoji characters
- CARSON: Rudderless U.S. foreign policy
- Obama thanks Muslims for 'building the very fabric of our nation'
- Obama vows veto of House border bill
- ISTOOK: Get ready for super-priced burgers due to NLRB decree
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world