NOAA: Less than 20 percent chance oil will hit Levy by day 120

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Thursday marked day 80

By Kellie Parkin

The Levy County coastline has a less than 20 percent chance of oil washing up on its shores, according to a probability model released by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration on Friday.

“Much of the west coast of Florida has a low probability (1 percent to 20 percent) for impact,” states the report released by NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration. “The Florida Keys, Miami and Fort Lauderdale areas have a greater probability (61 percent to 80 percent) due to the potential influence of the Loop Current.”

At this time, no significant amount of oil has entered the Loop Current, the July 2 report states.  

“A projected threat to the shoreline does not necessarily mean that oil will come ashore,” according to the report. “It means that oil or streamers or tar balls are likely to be in the general vicinity (within 20 miles of the coast).”

Based on the assumption that 33,000 barrels of oil per day is released for 90 days, the model is created from 500 distinct scenarios, only one of which will actually happen. The model predicts where the oil will be 120 days from the day it began to flow.  Today marks day 80 of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

“Although it is impossible to predict precisely where surface oil will go in the coming months,” the report states, “it is possible to analyze where surface oil is most likely to go by (a) using historical wind and ocean current records; and (b) accounting for both natural processes of ‘weathering’ and human intervention to recover and remove the oil.”

NOAA’s long-term projections focus on possible shoreline threats based on typical conditions for this time of year, not the current state of the Gulf of Mexico. “This modeling provides a glimpse for planning purposes but does not represent what we're actually seeing on the ground right now,” said Debbie Payton, NOAA oceanographer.

Levy County Director of Emergency Management Mark Johnson said there are a lot of factors involved. “If they can’t cap the thing off, the oil is eventually going to get here,” he said. “And it’s all weather dependant. With the help of a tropical storm, it could push the oil this way.”

In the mean time, Johnson said, Levy Emergency Management is working to get ready for the potential impact by coordinating on a regular basis with BP, the US Coast Guard, Florida DEP, and the Levy County Board of County Commissioners.

The model’s initial scenarios do not start with current conditions of the oil spill, but instead model the spill beginning at day one, based on historical weather and current patterns. The analysis also does not account for the effects of dispersants, the report states.

NOAA will continue to update the model as new data becomes available. Revised scenarios and more information can be found at http://response.restoration.noaa.gov/deepwaterhorizon/longterm_outlook.