Will the Oil Spill Reach Hatteras Island?
Concern along the coast is growing for fear that the oil leaking from the well in the Gulf of Mexico will reach the Carolinas. This concern, while understandable, is unnecessary. The chance of the oil spreading to our coast is minimal, less than 1 percent according to the U.S. Coast Guard, which is the lead agency in oil spill response in coastal waters. Most oil spill experts say any oil carried by the Loop Current would be more dispersed and highly weathered by the time it even gets to the Florida Keys, which is some 500 miles from the spill site (the Outer Banks is roughly another 1,000 miles from the Keys).
For the oil to reach our coast it would first need to get out of the Gulf, riding the loop current. Loop Current is a clockwise warm water current that carries water from the Yucatan to the Gulf of Mexico then east and loops back down off the Florida west coast and into the Gulf Stream. If the Loop intercepted the oil and carried it to the Gulf Stream it would be well diluted and aged by the time it was offshore. With the Gulf Stream approximately 15 miles offshore there would need to be significant weather and wind to push the oil from the Gulf Stream to the shore. Again, this is very unlikely with so many factors and should be less of a concern to the Outer Banks than the threat of beach closures for bird nesting. We are very fortunate that this doesn't seem to be an issue for us, but it has been a tragedy to much of the marine life in the area of the Gulf.