FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

When the Hurricane Comes

One thing you don’t hear much mention of in all the coverage of the BP oil rig blowout that is now pouring 210,000 gallons of oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico, just a few dozen miles off the coast of Louisiana, is the 2010 hurricane season, which officially starts on June 1, but which can start significantly earlier.

This is, after all, an El Nino year, so storms could be more frequent and stronger than usual. In 2007, recall, the first storm of the season was Tropical Storm Andrea, which reached a size strong enough to merit a name on May 7, just a week later than today.

Why does this matter? Because any attempt to use booms or chemicals keep the oil away from the Gulf Coast would be completely impossible in the event of a major storm entering the Gulf. The combination of high winds, storm surges and high waves would push the oil slick way inland up the bayous and onto the shelter islands that protect 40 percent of America’s wetlands.

It could do worse, too. The strong winds in hurricanes, sweeping across the surging waves they have created, such up a considerable amount of surface water and blow it inland. This time, however, those winds could also end up picking up a considerable amount of the oil slick floating on the sea’s surface, which would be deposited as rain well inland, damaging croplands and forests, too.

Meanwhile, NASA and government scientists are warning that the well could end up turning into a gusher, releasing as much as 2 million gallons of oil a day into the Gulf–ten times the amount currently coming out of the broken well.

Why is nobody talking about this hurricane issue? A Google search for the words “hurricane season” and “BP Oil leak” turned up lots of references to the “devastation of Hurricane Katrina” but nary an article in a major news story about what effect this year’s hurricanes might have on the clean-up effort from what is likely to be a bigger oil disaster than the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska.

So far, it’s looking increasingly likely that there will be no quick shutdown of the blown-out BP well, meaning that it could keep spewing out its contents into the Gulf, probably at an increasing rate, for several months. That would put it well into the middle of this year’s hurricane season, making it almost certain that at least one hurricane or tropical storm will pass right over the area and push that giant oil slick ashore.

And that’s not to mention what effect an untimely hurricane might have on any attempts to shut down the well. The most likely strategy is drilling several new wells that could both relieve the pressure on the current well, and also that could be used to pump mud or concrete or some other heavy, thick compound into the leaking well to try and stop it up. A major hurricane could wreak havoc with the new drilling rigs, particularly if only smaller ones are available for the job on short notice. A hurricane could also thwart efforts to drop a large tent over the leaking well–another scheme that is being contemplated, that would presumably funnel the rising crude oil into pipes that could deliver it to tankers for removal.

So far, all the talk has been about the urgency of getting booms in place to keep the oil slick from coming ashore, which it is starting to do now. But the real urgency should be to try to shut the thing down securely before the first hurricane hits, and to get as much of the already floating oil either chemically treated, burned off or skimmed before that hurricane arrives and blows it all ashore.

If you want a real disaster scenario, imagine this: a big hurricane–say Category 4 or 5, enters the Gulf and heads straight for New Orleans again, and blows out the levees again. Last time, there was a fairly toxic stew of water covering much of the city. This time it would be water mixed with millions of gallons of crude oil.

The Katrina disaster would look like a picnic by comparison.

Hmmmm. No wonder neither BP nor the government is talking about hurricanes.

They really don’t have much they can do except cross their fingers.

The idea that the president’s expanded offshore drilling plan is still on the table is simply appalling.

DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. His latest book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006 and now available in paperback). He can be reached at dlindorff@mindspring.com

 

 

WORDS THAT STICK

 

More articles by:

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
Victor Grossman
Red Flowers for Rosa and Karl
Cesar Chelala
President Donald Trump’s “Magical Realism”
Christopher Brauchli
An Education in Fraud
Paul Bentley
The Death Penalty for Canada’s Foreign Policy?
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Not to Love NATO
Louis Proyect
Breaking the Left’s Gay Taboo
Kani Xulam
A Saudi Teen and Freedom’s Shining Moment
Ralph Nader
Bar Barr or Regret this Dictatorial Attorney General
Jessicah Pierre
A Dream Deferred: MLK’s Dream of Economic Justice is Far From Reality
Edward J. Martin
Glossip v. Gross, the Eighth Amendment and the Torture Court of the United States
Chuck Collins
Shutdown Expands the Ranks of the “Underwater Nation”
Paul Edwards
War Whores
Alycee Lane
Trump’s Federal Government Shutdown and Unpaid Dishwashers
Martha Rosenberg
New Questions About Ritual Slaughter as Belgium Bans the Practice
Wim Laven
The Annual Whitewashing of Martin Luther King Jr.
Nicky Reid
Panarchy as Full Spectrum Intersectionality
Jill Richardson
Hollywood’s Fat Shaming is Getting Old
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Wide Sphere of Influence Within Folklore and Social Practices
Richard Klin
Dial Israel: Amos Oz, 1939-2018
Graham Peebles
A Global Battle of Values and Ideals
David Rovics
Of Triggers and Bullets
Elliot Sperber
Eddie Spaghetti’s Alphabet
January 17, 2019
Stan Cox
That Green Growth at the Heart of the Green New Deal? It’s Malignant
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail