Crews Evacuate Gulf as Storm Approaches

Friday, July 23, 2010

Cleanup crews began evacuating the Gulf of Mexico on Friday, as Tropical Storm Bonnie made its way toward the area.

Early Friday morning, the National Weather Service issued tropical storm warnings for the northwestern Bahamas, the Florida Keys, and coastal regions stretching from Louisiana to Florida. Forecasters also reported that the storm made landfall in Miami-Dade county around 11:30 a.m., and was heading in a northwesterly direction. But by late Friday, the storm had been downgraded to a tropical depression.

Ships engaged in collecting oil and monitoring the newly-capped well in the gulf began evacuating the area Friday, and the storm system was still expected to reach the spill site by Sunday, according to the Associated Press.

During a press briefing on Thursday, National Incident Commander Thad Allen said scientists had determined the cap could remain closed throughout the inclement weather, preventing more oil from spilling into the gulf.

The damaged well was finally capped July 15 - on the 85th day of the nation's worst oil disaster. Since then, crews have been monitoring the containment cap closely, to make sure it is holding until the company can complete drilling on two relief wells.

The company says drilling is nearly complete, but the stormy weather has put a stop to BP's efforts to permanently seal with well by pumping heavy mud and cement into the top of it.

In a briefing on Wednesday, Allen had said a major storm could halt that process for up to two weeks.

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