With Tropical Storm Bonnie downgraded to a tropical depression, a drilling rig and ships associated with the effort to kill the leaking Gulf of Mexico oil well reversed course Saturday when the weather forecast improved.
“We are going to continue to play a cat and mouse game for the remainder of the hurricane season,” retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, said at Saturday briefing. “It’s just one of the things we have to manage.”
Allen said it would take 24 to 36 hours for the drilling ship to return to the well site and at least a week longer to resume drilling on the relief well, which is had been scheduled to be finished by the middle of August. While the relief well is considered to be the likely final plugging of the runaway well, the well has been capped for over a week.
Dave Roberts, a National Hurricane Center forecaster, said Saturday that the storm could dissipate completely before making landfall, according to Reuters. The Miami-based center had earlier lifted all coastal tropical storm warnings associated with Bonnie.
Jane Lubchenco, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration administrator, told reporters that the weakening storm produced waves of three to five feet over well area, but those were expected to grow to as high as eight feet by late Saturday as the storm goes past.
The storm, she said, was not expected to produce a significant storm surge along the Gulf Coast and that the choppier waves could even help dissipate the slick and help the oil biodegrade faster.
“The beaches may look cleaner,” she said, according to The New York Times, adding that “different shorelines will see different impacts from the storm” as surges could push oil higher into bayous and marshes.