Official says oil spill won't affect hurricanes

by:  Brad Hlozek

After tackling the topics of El Nino and sea surface temperatures yesterday, we followed up with Part II of our interview with the Director of the National Hurricane Center, Bill Read.

One of the big topics of interest among the general public has been the oil spill in the northern Gulf.

"Just now looking at the data around the buoys in the area where the oil spill occurred the amount of oil on the surface has shown a distinct dampening effect on the waves," says Read.  "It reduces the friction on the wind that's hitting the water and the wave heights have been reduced."

I asked him about the effect that the oil plume could have on an approaching tropical storm or hurricane and the answer may surprise you.

"We really think that oil will not have a significant impact on a large hurricane, such as a Rita or an Ike.

"But, the hurricane may have a huge effect on the distribution and the spreading out of the oil that's already in the Gulf of Mexico; so we're really hoping for a solution to the ongoing leaking of the oil before we get into the season."

With flooding being the number one killer among weather related events, Read says that tropical storms could be more dangerous than people realize.

"Inland flooding is always a big concern with land falling hurricanes.  The part I try to convey the most is that it has nothing to do with the strength of the storm.  Many people just assume the stronger the storm the more rain you'll get.  But experience has shown us that it's some of the weakest tropical storms that create tremendous amounts of rains because they are fairly large but not strong in wind.

"It's also their slow movement which allows that rain to fall over the same areas and produce high rainfall totals in just a short period of time. "

For a look at NOAA's forecast and what that means for us, check out my Weather Blog.