Hurricanes and Oil Spills

Agricultural Disaster Preparedness and Recovery April 19, 2016 Print Friendly and PDF

Atlantic hurricane season officially begins June 1 each year. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center issues a seasonal prediction in May for the Atlantic Basin, which includes the Gulf of Mexico. If you live on or near the coast, the start of hurricane season is a good time to review your hurricane preparedness plans. Are you ready?

Many people along the Gulf Coast may be concerned about the interaction between a hurricane in the Gulf and oil spills that may occur before the storm. What happens to the oil when a hurricane moves through the affected area? Movement of the oil depends on the hurricane’s track, but in general, the storm will stir up the Gulf and dilute the oil by dispersing it over a wider area and into a larger volume of water.

In the past, oil spills have been the result of hurricane damage. For example, hurricanes Katrina and Rita caused dozens of significant spills and hundreds of smaller spills. Spilled oil was widely dispersed. Because of the high winds and storm surge, damage related to oil spills occurred in highly populated areas as well as coastal marshes.

Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in Venice, LA
Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in Venice, LA

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.