The Gulf of Mexico oil spill area is now the size of France, and is just like an iceberg. 10% is on the surface of the water, and 90% is unseen below the sea surface.
Sea surface temperatures from the Gulf to West Africa are nearing or over 90 degrees Fahrenheit and it’s only the end of June.
Tropical storms are already forming in those hot waters, and will continue to form as low pressure cells move westward from the African continent.
So, the chances that there will be a major blow or two (or three) in the Gulf of Mexico this season are quite high. I’ve already written Trigger of American Economic Collapse? stating that any Gulf hurricane could spread this oil to every beach on the Gulf. But there’s another scenario that is like a disaster movie writ large.
A major tropical storm or hurricane will scoop up vast amounts of surface water from the Gulf and rain it down on land as it comes ashore. The storm will also pick up some of the oil at the surface. Evaporation may not cause tar balls to jump up into the sky. But big storms produce tornadic funnels that do vacuum up surface debris. There have been reports of fish falling from the sky during hurricanes for decades.
So tarballs falling like hail is possible. And, if lightning occurred during a tarball hailstorm, isn’t it possible that the lightning could ignite the tarballs? Then, you would have the actual Biblical apocalyptic scenario of hailstorms of fire. Those gooey ignited tarballs would stick to everything they landed on and start fires.
So, a tropical storm or hurricane system could potentially be laden with petroleum as it makes landfall. All that petroleum-polluted rain could fall on cities, making every surface an oily, slippery, toxic mess. Everything it touches will be polluted, no matter where the rain falls. Trees, grass, crops and livestock will die from the toxicity.
Let’s not forget the storm surges from the Gulf will carry that same oil-filled salt water into populated areas.
But here’s the kicker.
What happens when the sweltering summer sun shines after the storm? All that oily pollutant will begin to dry out and some will evaporate. But the evaporating gasses will be highly flammable. Also, the oil coating everything will be flammable.
All it would take is one spark…one match…and entire cities could ignite and burn. And, just like a grease fire on your kitchen stove, you cannot just squirt water on an oil fire. Firefighters will be powerless to extinguish most fires. Further, the fires could likely spread to encompass entire blocks…even an entire city could burn to the ground…and even under the ground. Sewers filled with flammable oil and gas would explode like bombs, destroying water systems, sewer systems, natural gas pipelines, utility lines…even fiber optic lines.
There are lots of population centers at or near the Gulf of Mexico. Let’s start at the tip of Texas and work our way around to the tip of Florida to list them.
Corpus Christi, TX
Beaumont/Port Arthur, TX
Lake Charles, LA
New Orleans, LA
Tampa/St. Petersburg, FL
Fort Myers/Naples, FL
Every one of these cities is at risk going forward into the remaining hurricane season. Tens of millions of people could be forced to leave everything behind and evacuate to escape fires and the toxic pollution. Plus, even if the cities did not burn, the toxic rain could kill nearly all plant life and sterilize the ground for years to come. People near the coast are already becoming sick from breathing the air coming in off the Gulf. A big storm will make the dispersion of toxic oil vastly wider geographically.
A fire storm that burned down a city or multiple cities would bankrupt many insurance companies, including the biggies like State Farm and Allstate. That affects the rest of the insurance industry. Insurance companies have vast investment holdings in government securities that would have to be liquidated in bankruptcy. That liquidation could cause the bond market to collapse.
Look at the potential catastrophe that this oil spill/storm could be. What could the Federal Government do for a place like Houston/Galveston if it all burned to the ground? The potential risk is in the trillions of dollars. No government anywhere has the ability to mitigate this kind of disaster.
Then again…none of this could happen, and I could just be just a doomsday messenger. I hope I’m wrong, but risk management is my area of expertise. At least SOME of this scenario WILL occur. I just don’t know how much.
If you live at the Gulf Coast, you’d better get prepared.
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© Copyright 2010, Russell D. Longcore. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.