Oil In The Gulf
Our newsroom can expect a series of emergency alerts from weather forecasters when the tropics spawn hurricanes each year.
I’m sure the newsrooms of our peers up north get their own Internet alerts during the winter when blizzards threaten. We even get a few freeze warnings e-mailed to us here in Southwest Florida each year.
But, what we received Thursday afternoon from AccuWeather, a well-known private weather forecasting company based in State College, Pa., was ... well, quite unusual. I’d never seen one like it.
“AccuWeather.com meteorologists predict the ocean current in the Gulf of Mexico will switch to a southerly direction in the next 24 to 36 hours, which will push oil on the surface of the ocean towards the southeastern U.S. coastline.”
The advisory continued:
“As of midday Thursday, the Gulf of Mexico current is taking oil from the sunken rig away from land, but meteorologists expect the current to change course as a storm from the Rockies begins to move towards the Mississippi Valley.
“This next system scheduled to bring severe weather into the Mississippi Valley will switch winds to the south, pulling the ocean current in the same direction.
“Surface oil washing upon beaches in Louisiana and Mississippi could be devastating for life along the coast.”
A map accompanied the alert showing the predicted currents and future direction of the possible oil slick.
All of this followed the news of an oil-rig explosion Tuesday night 50 miles off the Louisiana coast.
This comes at an interesting time for Florida and other parts of the nation. A new energy bill soon will be unveiled by the Obama administration that will trade increased offshore-drilling rights for carbon-emission limits on a national level.
Will an easing of the no-drill line off Southwest Florida result in frequent weather reports on incoming oil slicks? Or, could just the asking of such a question qualify as an irresponsible scare tactic from a misguided tree-hugger?
From our view, we hope such forecasts become a trend, not just a report when there is fear of a major oil spill. The Naples Daily News has some street credentials to support that view.
Back in the fall of 2003 we published a 15-part series that investigated the health of the Gulf of Mexico. We documented that pollution — much of it man-made and some of it natural — is a daily fact of life.
The findings attracted national attention as we documented all sorts of conditions in the Gulf, from the byproducts of the oil-drilling industry to fish-killing red tides to agriculture-related dead zones that dot the massive body of water.
We found the Gulf of Mexico to be in poor health seven years ago. We also found that no one really monitors the Gulf as a whole — a problem since what happens off Mexico and Texas and Louisiana has an impact on the rest of the rim and vice versa.
An accurate, regular report on conditions in the Gulf would be useful to us all — today and tomorrow.
Lewis is editor of the Daily News. His e-mail address is email@example.com