David Shepherd: News Blog

Journalist's Notebook

Hurricane Alex’s Outer Bands Battering South Texas

By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com] – Wednesday, June 30, 2010

It’s the first time a hurricane has churned through the Gulf of Mexico during an oil spill so there are many unknowns tonight as to how Hurricane Alex will affect coastal areas.

Alex strengthened this afternoon as it takes aim at the Texas / Mexico border and it’s expected to strengthen to a Category 2 storm before making landfall Wednesday night.

As of 11 a.m., the National Hurricane Center says Alex was moving WNW at 7 mph with maximum sustained winds of 80 MPH.

Hurricane warnings have been posted from Baffin Bay, Texas, southward to La Cruz, Mexico.  Tropical storm-force winds are expected in the warned area within the next few hours.

The storm’s rotation poses a risk of tornadoes this evening.  The National Weather Service has issued a tornado watch for southeastern parts of the Texas coast until 8 p.m. [local time].  Flooding rains, damaging winds sustained at 90 MPH, with higher gusts, can be expected as well as severe thunderstorms, flash floods and tornadoes.

Differing Opinions About Alex’s Impact on Oil Spill

Hurricane Alex is not expected to directly hit the areas currently dealing with the BP oil spill in the Gulf; the storm will pass far to the southwest of the spill.  But meteorologists fear the outer wind fields and rotating feeder-bands could be strong enough to push more oil further inland in coastal areas already devastated by the affects of the spill.  Waves up to 15 feet could crash onto beaches as far away from the impact zone as Florida; possibly pushing the thick crude further onto the white sand beaches that line the Gulf coast.

Other researchers hope the storm will cause the opposite effect; stirring up the oil and pushing it further into the Gulf.

As I mentioned, this is an unprecedented event so no one really knows what the hurricane will do with the millions of gallons of oil spewed so far.

Oil and gas operators in the Gulf have begun evacuating rigs within the path of the hurricane.  The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement told reporters Tuesday 28 platforms and 3 rigs have been shut down; that’s nearly a quarter of the Gulf’s oil production and 9 percent of its natural gas production.

Rough seas have caused BP to bring their skimming boats to safe harbor, putting a delay into the oil spill clean-up efforts.  While those boats are out of commission, the oil will continue to spill, unchecked, until it’s safe to get the vessels back to the spill site.

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June 30, 2010 Posted by | News & Current Events | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Alex Strengthens Again To Tropical Storm Status As It Moves Into Gulf

By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com] – Monday, June 28, 2010

The latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center [Sunday, June 27, 2010 – 10 PM CDT] shows Alex has gained strength over the warm Gulf waters and is once again classified as a tropical storm.

Tropical systems gain their strength from warm water and weaken as they move over land.

Alex made landfall Saturday afternoon in Belize, and is currently moving into the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  Forecasters believe Alex will be able to gain enough strength to reach hurricane status before making landfall in northeastern Mexico or the southern coastal areas of Texas later this week.

Alex Could Push Oil Onshore Along Gulf Coast

No one is quite certain how Alex will affect coastal states as millions of gallons of oil continue to pour into the Gulf of Mexico.

Last week, forecasters feared Alex’s track could push it west of the BP oil spill but close enough that it could cause major problems for the clean-up effort in the Gulf.

Now, with the projected track further to the west, experts say the chances Alex would cause serious problems for the Gulf coast’s already desperate oil woes are low.

With that said, tropical systems are very unpredictable and can change course at any time to people along the Gulf coast should still monitor the latest developments as Alex approaches.

Tropical systems rotate counter-clockwise around the center of circulation, or eye.  With the storm projected to move to the west of the BP oil spill, that counter-clockwise flow could push the oil north closer to the coastal states.

Another factor to consider is the storm surge, which pushes Gulf water inland, often flooding coastal areas.  With oil mixed in with that Gulf water, it could leave behind a thick coat of oil on the beaches, streets, neighborhoods and flooded basements.

It’s unclear what kind of clean-up effort this would require on land but many fear it could be even more devastating for the coastal areas, where the oil spill is already hurting local tourism and economies, businesses and residents.

I’ll continue to follow the latest with this developing storm and examine what could happen as Tropical Storm Alex churns toward the Gulf.

June 28, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tropical Storm Alex Develops, Eyes Oil Devastated Gulf

By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com] – Saturday, June 26, 2010

The first tropical storm of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season has developed in the western Caribbean near Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.

The latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center [6/26/10 11:00 a.m.]:

Location:  17.3 N      86.1 W

Winds: 45 MPH

Moving: WNW 9 MPH

As the tropical storm moves over the warm waters of the Caribbean, it is expected to strengthen.

A Tropical Storm Warning has been issued for the coast of Belize and the east coast of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula from Chetumal to Cancun and the islands of Roatan, Guanaja and Utila in Honduras.

From there it is expected to move into the western Gulf of Mexico.  Tropical systems are very unpredictable and tracks can shift at any time. 

If the storm continues on its current track, it could pose major problems for the oil spill cleanup effort. 

Alex Could Push Oil Onshore Along Gulf Coast

No one is quite certain how Alex will affect coastal states as millions of gallons of oil continue to pour into the Gulf of Mexico.

Tropical systems rotate counter-clockwise around the center of circulation, or eye.  With the storm projected to move to the west of the BP oil spill, that counter-clockwise flow could push the oil north closer to the coastal states.

Another factor to consider is the storm surge, which pushes Gulf water inland, often flooding coastal areas.  With oil mixed in with that Gulf water, it could leave behind a thick coat of oil on the beaches, streets, neighborhoods and flooded basements.

It’s unclear what kind of clean-up effort this would require on land but many fear it could be even more devastating for the coastal areas, where the oil spill is already hurting local tourism and economies, businesses and residents.

I’ll continue to follow the latest with this developing storm and examine what could happen as Tropical Storm Alex churns toward the Gulf.

June 26, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Primetime Address: Lights, Camera, Action???

By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com] – Sunday, June 20, 2010

Did President Barack Obama forget to bring some action to his Tuesday night primetime address?  Some say yes.  Americans have been growing increasingly frustrated over the federal government’s response (or lack thereof for some) to the Gulf Oil Crisis.

 A new Associated Press (AP) poll, released Tuesday, shows 52% of Americans disapprove of the President’s handling of the oil spill.  It’s becoming clear this crisis and the federal government’s response, is frighteningly reminiscent of former President George W. Bush’s Hurricane Katrina catastrophe, where the majority of Americans polled felt like Bush’s response was insufficient.

Many hoped Tuesday’s Oval Office address would contain a bit more “Obama Kick-Ass.”  [The President told a reporter recently he met with experts to learn “whose ass to kick,” in the Gulf.]

The President addressed the nation in a somber tone from the hallowed chambers of the Oval Office, comparing the efforts in the Gulf to a battle and vowing to do everything in his power to make it right.

“Tonight I’d like to lay out for you what our battle plan is going forward:  what we’re doing to clean up the oil, what we’re doing to help our neighbors in the Gulf, and what we’re doing to make sure that a catastrophe like this never happens again.”  

But harsh attacks on BP were not the theme of this address.  The President obviously wanted to take a different approach.  He sounded like someone who has been there and understands what the people down there are going through because he has made several trips to the Gulf coast since the spill.

While his tone may not have been what all were hoping for, he did make it clear he will hold BP accountable for their actions.

“We will make BP pay for the damage their company has caused.  And we will do whatever’s necessary to help the Gulf Coast and its people recover from this tragedy.” 

Mr. Obama used a portion of his address to send a clear message to the American people that he is taking care of business.

Yahoo! News Photo

“Tomorrow, I will meet with the chairman of BP and inform him that he is to set aside whatever resources are required to compensate the workers and business owners who have been harmed as a result of his company’s recklessness.  And this fund will not be controlled by BP.  In order to ensure that all legitimate claims are paid out in a fair and timely manner, the account must and will be administered by an independent third party.”

As promised, Mr. Obama met with BP’s CEO at the White House.  In that meeting, the President ordered BP to create a $20 billion compensation guarantee and an apology to the nation from the company.  The fund would set up a large claims fund for shrimpers, restaurant owners and others whose livelihoods depend on the once beautiful waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

The White House also announced the compensation guarantee account would be led by Kenneth Feinberg, he’s the man who handled the 9/11 compensation account.

 

June 21, 2010 Posted by | News & Current Events | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Estimates Show Much More Oil Gushing Into Gulf Than Once Feared

By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com]

New estimates show 500,000 to 1 million gallons of oil are gushing into the Gulf of Mexico in the worst oil spill in the nation’s history.

BP engineers are using robots to place a cap onto the jagged edge of the oil well.  This is the company’s latest attempt to restrict the flow of oil gushing from the blown out well in the Gulf of Mexico.

5,000 feet below the Gulf’s surface, maintenance efforts are being hampered because the hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil gushing out is reducing visibility.

BP says this is not a fix.  Instead, it is meant to restrict, not cut-off, the flow of oil.  As the work is being done, there is the possibility the oil could flow faster than before for a short time (BP hopes).

A permanent fix won’t be ready until August.  With BP’s failure record, many question whether that fix will actually work.

Until Thursday, BP’s plans to stop the oil have failed time after time.  And while it’s too soon to

MSNBC: BP LIVE Video Feed

know if this plan will work, it’s the closest they’ve come so far.

Fears continue to grow along the Gulf coast where oil continues to spread.  So far, between 21 million and 46 million gallons of oil has spewed out of the blown out well and into the Gulf of Mexico.  As of Thursday, oil was spotted six miles from the white sand beaches along the Florida panhandle.

BP will soon be getting a bill from the federal government.  The White House says BP owes $69 million in costs so far.

What do you think?  Is it time for the federal government to take over the emergency efforts going on in the Gulf?  Leave comments and take my Soundoff news poll.

June 4, 2010 Posted by | News & Current Events, Polls, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Breaking News: BP’s Latest “Fix” Hits A Snag

By: David Shepherd[dshepherd@wtwo.com]

BP’s latest effort to contain the Gulf oil spill hit a snag Wednesday when a saw became stuck as it was cutting through a pipe along the busted well, NBC News reports.

BP is working to free the saw.  If nothing more goes wrong, they will resume the cut later in the day.

BP has been plagued with problems containing the oil for over a month.  The clock is ticking.  Every day the oil continues to gush, the worse it becomes for coastal regions of the Gulf.

This latest effort, if it succeeds, will only reduce the flow, not stop it completely.  If it fails, it will continue to compound the problems for residents and tourists along the Gulf.  A permanent fix isn’t expected to be ready until August.

June 2, 2010 Posted by | News & Current Events | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The White House and BP Telling Different Stories

By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com]

As frustration grows over the handling of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, questions are surfacing about who fumbled the initial estimates of the size of the spill.

BP’s managing director, Robert Dudley, told CNN’s “State of the Union” the federal government was the first to estimate the amount of oil leaking into the ocean each day.  Dudley insists government satellite imaging of the spill site led to early estimates that 210,000 gallons were leaking into the ocean every day.  Last week, new estimates put the leak at 504,000 to 798,000 gallons a day, that’s more than double the early figures.

President Obama’s assistant on energy and climate change, Carol Browner, told NBC’s Meet the Press that early estimates were offered by BP using their internal figures.  Browner has noted that BP has a “vested financial interest” in downplaying the leak’s size.

June 1, 2010 Posted by | News & Current Events | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment