Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Gulf storm would mean more freely gushing oil

The tropical wave is some 1,100 miles from the oily disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. It could go anywhere from Florida to Mexico. It could wind up little more than rain and blustery wind.

Nonetheless, a broad system tracking west across the Caribbean Sea was an unsettling reminder that hurricane season remains a significant threat to BP’s slow struggle to contain and seal its deep-sea gusher.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said Thursday that the Coast Guard told him an approaching storm would force BP to stop siphoning oil belching from the well for at least a week — leaving an estimated 35,000 to 60,000 barrels a day to freely flow into a Gulf already sick with the stuff.

“That means you have 60,000 barrels a day that will gush uninterrupted and unskimmed for 10 days,” said Nelson, who is pushing the Navy to outfit vessels as skimmers and have them on standby.

For now, it’s uncertain whether the disorganized wave will disrupt BP operations. The National Hurricane Center gave it a 40 percent shot at strengthening into a tropical system by Friday.

“It’s really a sloppy system,” said hurricane specialist John Cangialosi.

Still, the Coast Guard was watching its progress because any system pushing gale-force winds toward the spill site could be a game-changer. If experts are right, the Atlantic could be dealing with a lot of them in the coming months.
-- Miami Herald

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