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Hurricane season starts Tuesday, bringing new Gulf oil spill worries

BILOXI — If a storm passes through an oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico, it could spray oil on the beach and inland when it makes landfall, weather experts say.

"One of the ways we could get more oil on shore is for a strong hurricane or tropical storm that would bring the oil on shore," said Jeff Masters, a meteorologist and creator of Weather Underground.

"Also, if it's a strong storm, it could bring oil inland, which could do more damage to the ecosystem."

Hurricane season begins June 1 and goes through Nov. 30. About 210,000 gallons of oil a day has been gushing from a well 5,000 feet under the Gulf.

The oil spill occurred after the oil rig Deepwater Horizon exploded April 20 and sank two days later.

Experts believe it could take months to stop the spill and clean up the oil.

August and September are the peak of hurricane season.

Oil wouldn’t have an effect on the track of the storm or the intensity, said Dennis Feltgen, spokesman for the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

He added, though, that a hurricane or tropical storm might have trouble forming in or near an oil slick.

“Oil itself suppresses evaporation of the ocean’s water,” Feltgen said. “Tropical cyclones require a good amount of that moisture for those deep thunderstorms to develop, so it could slow down the genesis process.”

Masters said while there are different theories on what happens when storms and oil mix, it’s difficult to tell until it happens.

“It’s kind of an open question,” he said. “We don’t know what would happen, but if they don’t clean up the oil spill by September, then we definitely could see some hurricane and oil spill interaction.”

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