Local News

Computer models show Gulf oil reaching East Coast

Posted June 3, 2010 3:04 p.m. EDT
Updated June 3, 2010 10:56 p.m. EDT

— Oil leaking from a damaged well in the Gulf of Mexico could affect North Carolina’s coast soon, environmentalists said Thursday.

“We could look at having oil here on our beaches within no more than two weeks,” said Doug Rader, of chief oceans scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research models showed Thursday that oil could enter the Gulf’s loop current, go around the tip of Florida and as far north as Cape Hatteras, N.C.

According to researchers, oil could threaten East Coast beaches by early July, but they cautioned the models were not a forecast.

“Very direct, rapid linkages exist between the location of this spill and our beaches in North Carolina,” Rader said.

Rader said the state will eventually see tar balls on North Carolina beaches.

“Birds and fish and sea turtles and a wide array of important marine creature are at risk,” he said.

Seafood along parts of the outer banks could contain some of the toxicity.

Should the oil arrive, the state Division of Public Health has created warnings for swimmers, boaters and fishermen. They include avoiding oily waters and contaminated seafood.

Rader said the effects of the oil could be around North Carolina beaches for a while. He said the longer the oil leaks in the gulf, the longer it will trail along the Carolina coast.

“The amount of toxic material loose in the Gulf and moving toward us in the Atlantic is without precedent,” he said.

After affecting the East Coast, the oil could then head by Bermuda on its way to Europe.

Martin Visbeck, a research team member with the University of Kiel in Germany, says it is unlikely any oil reaching Europe would be thick enough to be harmful.