Meteorologists report that Hurricane Alex is gaining strength and speed as it moves toward the Texas/Mexico coast this morning, bringing destructive winds, heavy rains, and potentially severe flooding to areas beyond the target zone. As bad as this sounds, there's a potential upside to the first tropical cyclone of the season: It could actually speed BP oil spill cleanup efforts.
Earlier in the week, the tropical storm seemed to spell total doom. High winds and waves sidelined dozens of oil skimming boats. The big fear is that the hurricane, which moves in a counter-clockwise direction east to west, will spread oil into marshes and on beaches previously unaffected.
While this has been reported in some places, weather experts say the larger effect of the hurricane could be a very good thing for the oil mess.
With a hurricane, there's likely to be an upwelling of water that would mix up the water and oil, reports Live Science. That's good, because the dispersed oil would be easier for bacteria to break down and consume than the larger clumps. So the big question is whether there's any oil contained in that upwelling of water -- if there is, it's bad; if there isn't, it's good because that flow could flush out any previously existing oil stuck in the marshes.
Only time will tell.
The National Weather Service, which is tracking the storm, placed the center of the tropical cyclone at about 150 miles off eastern Mexico at 7 a.m. this morning. It continues to gain strength as it heads due northwest toward the southern coast of Texas/northern coast of Mexico. The 80-mile-an-hour winds, moving at about 7 miles per hour and picking up speed, are expected to hit landfall sometime tonight.
While residents from Baffin Bay, Texas, south to La Cruz, Mexico, evacuate and brace for the storm, the first June hurricane since 1995, U.S. residents are also on alert.
- A tropical storm warning is in effect north of the hurricane warning from Baffin Bay to Port O'Connor and south of the hurricane warning from La Cruz to Cabo Rojo.
- Massive bands of rain should continue spiraling on shore along the Gulf coast from Louisiana through Texas today, according to Weather.com.
- Rainfall of 6 to 12 inches followed by heavy flooding is possible from Corpus Christi west to Laredo and south to the Rio Grande River through Thursday.
- Another area with a heavy rain threat is along the Louisiana and northeast Texas coast. Rainfall there could total 2 to 4 inches through Thursday.
- Isolated tornadoes are possible in some of the rain bands anywhere within 50 to 100 miles of the Texas coast throughout the day Wednesday. The threat could increase in southern Texas during the late afternoon and evening hours as Alex makes its landfall.
There is more good news: Once Alex hits tonight, it should lose intensity quickly, though the rains will continue through Friday. Welcome to hurricane season.
You can track the storm yourself here: