Monday, June 28, 2010

BP, Oilspills and Storms: For Better or Worse

Just when you think you’ve put out all the Armageddon brush fires for awhile along comes “The Coming Gulf Coast Firestorm: How the BP oil catastrophe could destroy a major U.S. city.” This Natural News blog for Saturday June 26, 2010 is available at In this doomsday firestorm scenario the author suggests:
The hurricane makes landfall in New Orleans, let's say, dumping potentially hundreds of thousands of gallons of what is essentially "volatile fuel" on the city of New Orleans. Now, at first it's just a wet, slippery toxic mess that kills trees and grass. But what happens after the storm when the sun dries out the city?

All the dead trees killed by the oil turn into kindling. The sun evaporates off the rain water, leaving behind fuel. A few days of sun baking and you have a city doused in fuel, ready to burst into flames. It's every fireman's worst nightmare. The whole city is essentially turned into a giant match.

Now, sure, the more volatile fuels might evaporate, but as they do, they'd fill the city with explosive fumes. One spark, one fire, one lightning strike and your whole city literally goes up in flames. The BP oil spill, in other words, provides the fuel that could turn an ordinary hurricane into Mother Nature's arson attack on an entire city.

Like a nuclear bomb

This would not be an ordinary city on fire, either: It would be a city doused with volatile fuels that soaked it to the core. The sewers would explode like massive terrorist bombs, ripping to shred any underground infrastructure (fiber optics, water delivery, electrical infrastructure, etc.). The pavement itself would be on fire, as would parks, grasslands and forests. The city would burn from top to bottom, and there would be no point even trying to put out the flames. All we could do is evacuate and watch it all burn to the ground.

And in the aftermath, you'd still have oil covering the beaches, oil in the ocean, and the threat of more firestorms yet to come. It could be just the first of many such incidents striking the Gulf Coast.
Far be it for me to argue with Mike Adams, the self-proclaimed Health Ranger, but perhaps I can offer a little historical perspective.

Santa Barbara Oil Spill 1969 

I remember that January 1969 was a particularly wet winter for Los Angeles with some fairly strong winds. According to Wikipedia:
"A record-breaking storm immediately before the incident [January 28, 2009] contributed to the large amount of oiled debris that needed to be collected as part of the spill response…Weather during the cleanup was moderate except for a storm on February 4 and 5 that temporarily halted cleanup by damaging booms that were protecting harbors and marinas. The majority of the cleanup was completed within 45 days."

IXTOC 1- 1979 [Excerpt from H2OIL COVERUP, soon to be released]

Fortunately, in mid September a storm passed through the Gulf cleaning the beaches and leaving mainly tar mats. Afterwards, cleanup efforts were focused on the Barrier Islands, which had been washed over with oil during the storm. Eventually, workers had to resort to shovel and rakes because the heavy equipment removed too much sand. The oiled material that was removed amounted to over 10,000 cubic yards.
Indonesia - Malaysia 1990’s

I was based in Kuala Lumpur from 1990 to 1996. The Straits of Malacca are known to be one of the most oil-polluted water bodies on earth. I can personally attest to the tar balls and oil slicks which regularly coated the beaches on the west coast of the peninsula. Monsoons are annual events, but I never saw or heard of any black or oily rain falling on the coast or in the interior.

Thailand – 1989

Shortly before I arrived in Southeast Asia, Typhoon Gay struck the Unocal Platong Gas Field in the Gulf of Thailand. The Seacrest drillship capsized and 91 of the 97 man crew perished. It formed so suddenly and with such intensity that no distress signals were heard and no lifeboats were ever found. The storm reached wind speeds of 100 knots (115 miles per hour) the worst storm to hit the Malay Peninsula in nearly 3 decades. Two hundred fishing boats were lost and 600 fishermen were reported missing. More than 400 people lost their lives when the storm tracked across Thailand. It eventually hit a sparsely populated area on the east coast of India as a Category 5 cyclone killing 39 people. Several platforms were damaged and there was leakage of both oil and gas, but there were no fires and no reports of aerial pollution.

So, it remains to be seen whether a storm in the Gulf of Mexico will make things worse or (temporarily) help to clean things up. While anyone can conjure up any type of fear-based catastrophe they choose, it is good to at least have some basis in fact or historical precedent. Otherwise, all you have is a plot for another sensationalist, movie which exploits the fears of the true Gulf Coast victims of this terrible tragedy.

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