Storm Headed for the Gulf Spill Could Delay Final Fix

Dick writes about Earth and planetary science for Science magazine.

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, have designated an atmospheric disturbance just south of the Bahamas as Tropical Depression 3. They are calling for it to strengthen into a tropical storm, which would be named Bonnie, and to pass over or more likely just to the south of the now-capped Macondo well off the Louisiana coast.

According to the center's forecast, the most likely track for the storm will take it northwestward across the Florida Keys and the Gulf of Mexico, passing about 150 kilometers southwest of the spill site Saturday night. According to national incident commander Thad Allen speaking at a press briefing yesterday, if tropical storm conditions—winds of 64 to 118 kilometers per hour—were expected at the site, evacuation of all vessels involved in the cleanup, containment, and relief well operations would be required.

That in turn would cause delays of up to 10 to 14 days, including crucial work to finally stop the gusher.

Drillers had been about to reinforce the bottom of the nearest relief well before perhaps attempting a "static kill" of the capped problem well. As of yesterday, no decision had been made whether the well would remain capped after an evacuation or pressure would first be relieved, releasing days' worth of oil into the gulf.

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