NCSU scientist: Sooner or later, N.C. waters will see oil

Posted May 24, 2010
Updated May 26, 2010

— As millions of gallons of oil gush into the Gulf of Mexico, the Coast Guard and North Carolina Division of Emergency Management are in wait-and-see mode, preparing for any oil that may wash onto North Carolina beaches.

“Occasional tar balls on beaches in North Carolina are not a new phenomenon and are common from activities un-related to this oil spill,” the state says in a fact sheet on the spill.

The North Carolina Division of Public Health has prepared guidelines for swimmers, boaters and fishermen in the event oil arrives in North Carolina waters. They include avoiding physical contact with oily waters and seafood that may be contaminated.

Dr. Ruoying He, an oceanography professor at North Carolina State University, said it could be only a matter of time before oil is present in the Gulf Stream, about 40 to 60 miles off the Carolina coast.

"Eventually, these things will show up, but exact timing and location is pretty hard to tell," He said.

He has researched the “loop current,” which circles clockwise in the Gulf of Mexico before traveling around Florida and up toward the east coast.

"These strong currents will bring the oil all the way to the South and eventually to the east of the United States," He said.

It would take a northeastern wind to push that oil toward the shore, and the Outer Banks will be most likely to see an impact, He said.

A hurricane could even stir up oil from beneath the water surface, and a storm surge could force that oil ashore, He said.

Douglas Hoell, director of the state Division of Emergency Management, is confident that the state and Coast Guard are ready for any oil that arrives on shore.

"Obviously, there would be some forewarning, so we could see this coming and act appropriately,” he said.


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  • maybelle May 27, 2010

    HA the Neuse already has oil, grim trash
    I now live on the crystal coast at the mouth of the Neuse
    the oil might make it better.
    Besides the teachers need more money so why spend money to clean up coastal waters.

  • lmj3132 May 26, 2010

    I can't believe some of the comments on here. LOL....Someone said "there is no need to be concerned until we see how much oil gets picked up by the loop current" This person must not have common sense. We are now going into hurricane season and at the rate this oil spill is going it will surely reach our coast. Please, don't post if you don't know what you are talking about.

  • wheelercb59 May 25, 2010

    im sure ole bev will be right on top of this

  • Bendal1 May 25, 2010

    There's no need to get concerned until we see how much oil gets picked up by the Loop Current and carried past Florida. Since very little oil has been caught by that current so far, that may take weeks or months before it starts moving up the East Coast.

    I'd say right now our coastal agencies need to either set up or modify existing plans to try and keep the oil out of the sounds. Beaches can be cleaned; wetlands and marshes cannot. That means having barriers to put across inlets and devices to collect any oil that gets past them.

    Agencies that deal with wildlife need to be prepared too; the Outer Banks are nesting sites for birds and turtles, and if oil reaches them they need to have a plan to help any creature caught in it.

    Having a plan ready to go and the resources to implement it are all that need to be done right now, though.

  • Joani P. May 25, 2010

    What, if anything can NC do to prepare before this mess hits our shore lines?

  • NoFreakinWay May 25, 2010

    this is a riot. this morning they say people are coming to our beaches because the Gulf Coast is decimated. Well that won't last long. In just a few short weeks our beaches will look like the Gulf Coast then where will the vactioners go, Idaho?

  • Awake in Wake May 24, 2010

    not4sale, if you have been paying attention, the general consensus seems to be that nothing has been tested almost 1 mile deep in the ocean. Therefore, no one really knows what needs to be done to stop the gusher. I cannot blame this administration when even the industry experts do not know how to stop the flow of oil. However, I do blame the politicians who sold out to the oil and natural gas lobbyists and allowed deep-sea drilling in the first place. Especially since, there appears to have been no planning for accidents in deep water. We should also blame those who succombed to the "Drill Baby Drill" mantra when gasoline reached $4 per gallon. There is really nothing that can be done to stop this environmental disaster while the oil is still gushing. Are you going to put barriers around the entire Gulf coast from Texas to Florida? A hurricane or tropical storm could move the oil anywhere in the Gulf region. Sometimes you just have the bear the consequences for poor planning.

  • NCSU May 24, 2010

    it might let some marine populations recover from over fishing, if they aren't all harmed by the oil

  • moth May 24, 2010

    Guess I won't bother buying a fishing license this year.

  • Gork May 24, 2010

    Notforsale,please explain what you would have the administration do about it (wink wink...)? Or,just tell us what they haven't done that they are supposed do?