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Gulf oil spill: Could 'toxic storm' make beach towns uninhabitable?

Residents fear mass relocations should a hurricane kick the Gulf oil spill onto resort towns. ‘Hazmat cards’ are a hot commodity among residents, since they could be the key to return.

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On Friday, the Coast Guard announced it would start moving boats and rigs away from the Deepwater Horizon geyser site 120 hours before a hurricane’s approach, at that point ending all collection efforts and delaying the drilling of relief wells, which are now on track to plug the well by late August – the height of the hurricane season. The geyser blowing at full tilt without a containment cap could spew between 35,000 and 60,000 barrels of oil a day, possibly more.

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Moreover, scientists have predicted one of the busiest Gulf hurricane seasons in years, expecting between 14 and 23 named storms and 14 hurricanes this summer – compared to a long-term average of 11 named storms per season.

Tropical Storm Alex formed in the western Caribbean on Saturday, and forecasters said it was unclear if it would hit the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Associated Press reported. Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami said early Saturday that the storm has maximum sustained winds of about 40 mph.

Most storm models show Alex traveling over the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico over the weekend, hurricane forecaster Jack Bevens said. Bevens noted it’s too soon to say with certainty if the storm will pass over the oiled Gulf, though for now it’s not expected to hit the spill.

If it does, says Greve, “That’d be a real mess.”

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