photo via flickr
As clean up efforts from the Deepwater Horizon extend into almost their 70th day, bad news has blown in the form of a warning of a coming tropical storm strong enough to halt clean up efforts. The stoppage could result in an additional half-million of barrels of spilled oil, adding to the record amounts already beginning to show up on Gulf beaches and marshlands. The storm, now kicking up waves from Honduras to the Grand Cayman, could produce winds as strong as 45mph, making clean up efforts impossible. The pause, according to federal estimates, could lead to 840,000 barrels, or 35 million gallons, gushing out. Experts have feared such an eventuality after hurricane season began last month.
The force from the winds of the tropical storm would force all oil skimmers back to port and force BP to remove the "top hat," the funnel-like device placed on top of the gusher to limit its flow and guide oil to the surface for recovery. Recovered oil is then burned.
Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen said that ships should not be out at sea during such a powerful storm: "I don't think anyone wants a vessel out there trying to skim oil."
There was no word if the work stoppage would affect efforts to drill relief wells for the spill, now thought to be the only way to stop the gusher.