Market News

 June 26, 2010
Storm could pose latest problem to oil spill response

  Tropical Storm Alex formed in the western Caribbean Saturday, and forecasters said it was unclear if it would hit the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Reports of maximum sustained winds of about 40 mph from Tropical Storm Alex has been a cause of concern if the storm will disrupt BP cleanup efforts of the massive oil spill that has been gushing since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20. Gale-force winds could cause at-sea workers to abandon their oil collection efforts for as long as two weeks, McClatchy Newspapers reports.

Most storm models show Alex traveling over the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico over the weekend, hurricane forecaster Jack Bevens told the Associated Press.

Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said Saturday that officials are watching Alex carefully even though the current forecast shows it moving toward Mexico and missing the northern Gulf, the AP reports.

"We know that these tracks can change and we're paying very close attention to it," Allen told the AP.

"The greatest nightmare with this storm approaching is that it takes this oil on the surface of the Gulf and blows it over the barrier islands into the bays and the estuaries," Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., told CNN. "And that is where you really get the enormous destruction, because it's just very difficult to clean up those pristine bays."

Bevens said it is too soon to say with certainty if the storm will pass over the Gulf.

Allen told CNN that he will have to redeploy people and equipment to safer areas five days before gale-force winds.

We are going to try to merge two response structures. One has proven effective in the past, and that's a central coordination of search and rescue and how operations are conducted, and that's done out of Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida for hurricanes, Allen told the media outlet. And we are in the process of integrating our planning processes so the oil spill response is integrated fully within the search and rescue recovery operations.

Allen told reporters Friday that the Deepwater Horizon well could remain unattended for 14 days. He added that planning for a hurricane would require unplugging the "top hat" that has been collecting some of the gushing oil, McClatchy reports.

Coastal clean-up efforts would also be abandoned, Allen said. "I don't think anyone wants a vessel out there trying to skim oil," he told McClatchy.

Anywhere between 69 million and 132 million gallons of oil have spewed into the Gulf since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded April 20, killing 11 workers and setting off the spill, according to the AP.