Hurricane Alex Spotlights Delicacy of the Oil Spill Operation

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The storm may be moving west of the oil spill in the Gulf, but the momentary panic revealed just how fragile a situation the ongoing recovery remains.

At the beginning of the weekend, before tropical storm Alex made landfall over Belize, forecasters were panicking about the storm’s possible turn towards Louisiana. Now this morning, the plan seems to be for Alex to escalate into a hurricane late in the day Tuesday, and for it to slam into the Mexico-Southern Texas coast later in the week.

This is far, far west of the oil spill area, and while storms can change course rapidly and unpredictably, it would appear that the oil operations will not be affected.

Still, the Alex scare revealed the tenuous nature of the ongoing efforts out at sea.

Any weather system that generates winds in excess of 46 miles per hour could force all operations to grind to a halt – meaning there would be no efforts made to contain the gushing oil, or to drill the relief wells. Five days prior to a storm, all equipment and personnel would be relocated. As much boom as possible would be lifted out of the sea and stored during the storm, so they could be repositioned as quickly as possible in the aftermath.

It’s a scary prospect: Not only that a hurricane could bring more oil on shore, but that it could bring all of the oil spill efforts to a halt for a week or longer.