How a Hurricane Could Decimate the US Economy
In the major oil companies’ identical five-page, boilerplate plans for cleaning up an oil spill nor in any of the EPA feasibility and environmental impacts studies is there any mention of the consequences of a hurricane running inland after passing over a huge oil spill. The possible implications are almost too incredible and monstrous to imagine–let alone predict and quantify. The chances of another Category 5 storm like Hurricane Katrina are very remote–but so were the stated odds of there ever being a catastrophic spill such as this in the Gulf of Mexico. Two disasters like these combined could very well destroy a US economy already on the brink of collapse and calculating the cost of the damage done by the oil spill itself has proven to be a number that cannot be ascertained even to the closest billion dollars. The Atlantic hurricane season has just begun and the gushing oil well could be weeks, if not months, away from being capped.
An article in The Christian Science Monitor speculates where or not a hurricane would dilute and disperse the spilled oil (Christian Science Monitor, 2010). No one knows with any certainty but already forecasters are asserting that it depends at what angle the storm were to collide with the oil slick; to one side, the gale force winds could push the slick out to sea. The other side, in worst-case scenario, has the oil being picked up and being spread over the Gulf States as far as the hurricane encroaches inland–and many hurricanes have gone hundreds of miles inland before dissipating. No one can predict what will happen and, in fact, no one has ever tried to predict, let alone prepare for that possibility. No one even prepared, it seems, for the current oil spill at all so it can be expected that this additional variable was unseen or unmentioned.
An easy projection and more readily envisioned “nightmare scenario” would be to imagine a storm crossing central Florida into the Atlantic leaving a twenty-mile wide path of sprayed oil; not sprayed here and there but a twenty-mile wide path of everything painted dead and blackened. Scientists seem not have studied what this might look like but those living on the gulf coast are nervous about this even happening to the barrier islands–life there would cease to exist as we know if not entirely. Now imagine a swath from Orlando across to Daytona spray-painted black and uninhabitable for years, if not decades, to come. It not need be gale force winds to effect this devastation–a long steady rain could accomplish the feat. Nothing would be spared or could be saved; farms and orange groves ruined, grazing lands made unusable, Disneyland polluted and the air un-breathable for months or years, tourism there no more. The drive across the devastated area heading south to Miami would be like a journey across a science fiction war zone.
The only point of reference as far as storm clean-up and rebuilding after a “Cat 5” hurricane is New Orleans itself; the federal government spent well over $100 billion on rebuilding efforts and still parts of the city are uninhabitable. The gulf and its industries were just beginning to make a come back as the BP oil spill dashed all hopes of that area’s economy ever really fully recovering from the earlier storm; the businesses just have started to return to profitability and still nearly a half million of the city’s people have not returned (Ward, 2006).
The fallout from a catastrophe might be the last nail in the coffin for the US economy. Whether the government closed down all 700 military bases around the world and brought all two million troops home to help with the clean-up is unpredictable but likely China would cut-off our line of credit and wars would be a luxury we could no longer afford. Americans could be forced to live as a third-world nation and anarchy would likely ensue. God help us all.
WARD, ANDREW. (2006, June 17). Dollars 20bn extra for Katrina renewal gives New Orleans hope :[LONDON 1ST EDITION]. Financial Times,p. 7.