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Oil Continues to Spread in Gulf of Mexico

28.8N 88.5W

May 3rd, 2010 Category: Environmental Disasters

Oil Spill (Multispectral/Radar Composite), Gulf of Mexico - May 2nd, 2010

Oil Spill (Multispectral/Radar Composite), Gulf of Mexico - May 2nd, 2010

Oil Spill Detail (Mutispectral/Radar Composite)

Oil Spill Detail (Mutispectral/Radar Composite)

Oil Spill Detail (Radar Image)

Oil Spill Detail (Radar Image)

As President Obama traveled to Louisiana on Sunday for a first-hand briefing on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, federal officials in Washington said they were putting their hopes on drilling a parallel relief well to plug the unabated gusher. Drilling such a well could take three months, the NY Times reports.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Sunday restricted fishing for at least 10 days in waters most affected by the oil spill, largely between Louisiana state waters at the mouth of the Mississippi River to waters off Florida’s Pensacola Bay.

The slick, emanating from a pipe 50 miles offshore, was creeping into Louisiana’s fragile coastal wetlands as strong winds and rough waters hampered cleanup efforts. Oil could hit the shores of Alabama and Mississippi on Monday. Here, the slick can be seen spreading towards the coasts from the image center.

The environmental disaster was set off by an explosion on April 20 at the Deepwater Horizon rig in which 11 workers were killed. Two days later, the rig sank, leading to the first visible signs of a spill.

The objective of drilling a relief well parallel to the original rig would be to pour cement into the damaged well and plug it. Efforts to turn off the ruptured well by using remotely operated underwater vehicles working a mile below the surface have failed so far.

Meanwhile, The Associated Press reported that offshoots from the spill had made their way into South Pass, an important channel through the salt marshes of Southeastern Louisiana that is a breeding ground for crabs oysters, shrimp and redfish sold by a number of small seafood businesses dependent on healthy marshland for their livelihood.

There was concern that if the spill is not plugged, oil could seep into the Gulf Stream, the current that warms seawater and influences the climate in places as remote as Newfoundland and Europe. If that happens, slicks of oil could travel around the thumb-like tip of Florida and make it way to the eastern beaches.

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