Bonnie Halts Gulf Cleanup

By Kirstie Hettinga, AccuWeather.com Staff Writer
July 23, 2010, 4:51:07 AM EDT

Tropical Storm Bonnie has temporarily suspended oil spill cleanup operations in the Gulf of Mexico.

As of Friday morning, Bonnie was about 155 miles southeast of Miami, Fla., and will move quickly into the eastern Gulf this weekend, according to the AccuWeather.com Hurricane Center.

A press release from BP stated, "With the guidance and approval of the National Incident Commander (NIC) and the leadership and direction of federal government, relief well activities at the MC252 well site will be temporarily suspended because of potentially adverse weather associated with Tropical Storm Bonnie, which is projected to track into the Gulf of Mexico."

The MC252, which had been spewing oil into the Gulf since the disaster began on April 20, was capped seven days ago.

The statement from BP read, "BP will continue to monitor the MC252 well as long as weather permits. Duration of the suspension of relief well activities will be dependent on the weather."

In a press briefing on Thursday, National Incident Commander for the Gulf Oil Spill Thad Allen said, "We're under the assumption that somewhere very early in the morning on Saturday we could see storm force winds at the well site."

As of Friday morning, waves in the area were between 2 and 4 feet. Bonnie's impact in the Gulf could create waves between 5 and 8 feet on Saturday.

The well itself will remain capped, even if it cannot be monitored.

Each vessel in the Gulf has a different threshold of tolerance for wind and sea conditions and would be forced to head to port at different times.

Allen said weather conditions, "are probably going to force us off the water because there’s only a certain amount of a weather window that the skimmers can operate in."

In terms of what would happen to the oil if Bonnie moves through the area, Allen said, "It could be that some oil will be dispersed more rapidly because of the emulsification that will take place because of the movement of the water itself. We have the prospect that some of this oil could be driven inland into the marsh areas as some of it did when [Hurricane] Alex passed by."

AccuWeather.com Expert Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said because of the fast forward speed of the system, it will have less time to drive the oil inland.

Allen said that equipment located near shore is being taken inland to protect it from any storm surge, which would allow the equipment to be redeployed as soon as it is safe.

AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist Rob Miller contributed to this report.

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