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Oil complicates forecasts on hurricane season eve

May 31, 2010 12:04:00 AM - thestate.com
As hurricane season approaches, the giant oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico takes weather forecasters into nearly uncharted waters.

The Gulf is a superhighway for hurricanes that form or explode over pools of hot water, then usually move north or west toward the coast. The site of the sunken rig is along the general path of some of the worst storms ever recorded, including Hurricane Camille, which wiped out the Mississippi coast in 1969, and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The season officially starts Tuesday, and while scientists seem to agree that the sprawling slick isn't likely to affect the formation of a storm, the real worry is that a hurricane might turn the millions of gallons of floating crude into a crashing black surf.

Some fear a horrific combination of damaging winds and large waves pushing oil deeper into estuaries and wetlands and coating miles of debris-littered coastline in a pungent, sticky mess.

And the worst effects of an oil-soaked storm surge might not be felt for years: If oil is pushed deep into coastal marshes that act as a natural speed bump for storm surges, areas including New Orleans could be more vulnerable to bad storms for a long time.

USA, South Carolina: (Latest Stories)