Hurricanes, oil spill could be bad combination

Published 7:27 pm Wednesday, June 2, 2010

It may take a while to get the Gulf of Mexico oil leak under control, but Mother Nature waits for no one.

In addition to continuously failed attempts to plug an oil leak that is creeping closer to shore, hurricane season is underway.

June 1 marked the official start of hurricane season and the elements have been more than quiet throughout the transition.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center issued the Atlantic Basin seasonal outlook which calls for an “active to extremely active” hurricane season.

With a seasonal average of 11 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes, NOAA predicts anywhere from 14 to 23 named storms and eight to 14 hurricanes, three to seven of those falling into category three, four or five hurricanes.

So what does the oil spill have to do with that?

“According to NOAA, a hurricane would not ‘rain down’ oil as it comes inland. However, the storm surge would push oil inland with it,” said Pike County EMA Director Jeanna Barnes in an e-mail.

If the oil slick remains small in comparison to an average 200 to 300 mile wide hurricane, it will have minimal effects on the hurricane.

Tropical storms and hurricanes are stimulated by the evaporation from sea water and, theoretically, an oil slick could suppress evaporation and shield water from the air, therefore reducing fuel to the storms.

However, the oil slick is patchy and the water still vulnerable to the potential storm.

This is not the first time the economy has been threatened with oil and hurricanes, just not in this order. Hurricanes Rita and Katrina cause hundreds of oil spills in 2005.

The effect that the high winds and seas will have on the oil spill is speeding up the process of breaking down the oil.

In the event of “bad” weather, residents still have a form of defense against the elements.

“Developing a communications plan, putting together an emergency supply kit and staying informed of the latest forecasts are the best ways to prepare for any bad weather, not just hurricane season,” Barnes said.

“The rule of thumb is that your emergency supply kit should be able to sustain you and your family for at least 72 hours.”

A basic emergency supply kit would include water, non-perishable food, battery-powered radios and flashlights, first aid kit, sanitation towels and important documentation.

To better serve the community, changes in the times in which tropical storms, hurricane watches and warnings will be issued were made.

“Tropical storm watches will be issued when tropical storm conditions are possible within 48 hours. Tropical storm warnings will be issued when those conditions are expected within 36 hours,” Barnes said.

Watches and warnings will be issued 12 hours earlier than last year.