Credit – National Weather Service: National Hurricane Center
Heading into the weekend, there are three very disturbing realities coming together that make those of us who care about the ocean very uncomfortable:
Tropical Storm Karen is making its way through the Gulf of Mexico and heading straight towards a vast field of offshore oil rigs and pipelines. Parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida are already under tropical storm watches and warnings.
When tropical storms and hurricanes hit this region, they can cause a lot of oil spills. For example, the damage that Hurricanes Katrina and Rita caused to rigs and pipelines resulted in spills totaling 17, 652 barrels (or roughly three-quarters of a million gallons) of petroleum products. Even more oil was spilled from on-shore facilities. Not to mention the fact that a major storm might also churn up submerged oil from the BP oil spill, sending it back onto our shores and beaches.
Because of the government shutdown, many of NOAA’s oil spill experts – employees of NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration – are furloughed and off the job.
As most ocean lovers know, June 1 marks the official start of hurricane season. With torrential rains, storm surges and substantial winds, hurricanes can cause catastrophic damage to coastlines and several hundred miles inland, but you can increase your chances of safety by being prepared.
The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30. The ingredients for a hurricane include a pre-existing weather disturbance, warm tropical oceans, moisture and relatively light winds. If the right conditions persist long enough, they can combine to produce the violent winds, incredible waves, torrential rains and floods we associate with hurricanes.
For most folks, June 1st passes much like any other day (although it is Oscar the Grouch’s birthday and official “flip a coin” day), but for people who call the Gulf coast home, it’s a significant day on the calendar. It marks the start of hurricane season, which runs until November 30.
Like many people, I find myself equally fearful of and fascinated by these intense weather events. Talk to anyone who’s lived on the coast for more than 5 years and I bet they have a hurricane story for you. Continue reading »