Calculations estimate that the total to date exceeds over 100 million gallons which translates into 23,809,520 barrels of oil since the Deep Water Horizon exploded and sank. That is the equivalent of nine Exxon Valdez spills. The oil presently impacts nearly 37% of the Gulf of Mexico.
British Petroleum predicted in its disaster plan submitted to the Minerals Management Service that if a problem developed, the oil would not reach land. Obviously, they were wrong! Not only have significant areas of the rich marshes along the Louisiana coastline been destroyed, but the oil is now washing ashore along the pristine sugar sand beaches of Alabama and Florida. Perhaps now the Washington will pay closer attention.
The economic impact of this event on fishing and tourist industries is beyond calculation. The damage may be felt for years…generations perhaps.
Even worse, the oil continues to gush. This means the problem will only get worse over time. Furthermore, every attempt to shut off the well has failed. All hope now rests with the two relief wells being drilled that will not be completed until mid August. What if that fails?
One would think matters could not get worse… but they can. The 2010 Hurricane Season opened two weeks ago and meteorologists predict an active season. Most early season storms form in the gulf, but this year the first tropical storm of note has already appeared in the Atlantic Ocean off of the coast of Africa and moved into the Gulf. Storms usually start there after August.
That storm grew to a Category #2 Hurricane named Alex before slamming into the cost of Mexico immediately below Texas. The last time this occurred was in June 1979.
Merely days later two additional disturbances have arisen. The first is a low pressure area that could become a tropical disturbance immediately off of the coast of Louisiana. The second is forming in the Caribbean immediately below Cuba. This one has the potential to become quite formidable and all hope it will follow the track of Alex by going into Mexico.
The bottom line is that this will undoubtedly be an active tropical season. Already three disturbances have formed. This will make matters decidedly more difficult for both containing the oil spill and cleaning up the slicks.
What if a hurricane should enter the gulf? The Hurricane Center has reviewed the problems it could cause under the present unfortunate circumstances: First, the oil will not weaken a storm. Second, no one knows where the oil will be driven should a storm arrive. Third, any hurricane will magnify the problem by widely distributing the oil.
How the spill reacts to a storm depends totally on the hurricane’s track. If it moves to the east of the spill, its counterclockwise motion will push the oil further into the gulf, away from shore. However, should it pass to the west the winds will drive the oil on land as far as the storm surge penetrates. This means that oil could travel miles inland destroying precious marshland as well as the beaches and populated areas.
Such a tragic event defines our greatest fears. Is it any wonder why residents along the entire gulf coast are anxious and frustrated with the failures to plug the hole and clean-up the mess?
Residents are angry with BP for causing the crisis, but also disappointed with the response of their government. Federal authorities appear unable to get past mindless bureaucratic bungling to marshal the resources needed to clean up the mess. Vast stretches of polluted coastline have no workers working the spill and assets that could be employed remain in port. It’s been sixty days. There is a signal lack of leadership!
Have no illusions, there will be more storms this year and it seems that only the people living in this region feel an overwhelming sense of urgency. Just what will it take to make our government to comprehend the magnitude of this disaster and respond appropriately?