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Mixing a hurricane and oil

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Updated: 6/30/2010 11:45 pm
Jacksonville, Fla.-- Action News separates fact from fiction when it comes to mixing the oil spill and a hurricane.

It's the most devastating force associated with a hurricane, the storm surge. This season, there's an added worry, tar balls, the size of dinner plates is showing up as far away as Mississppi because of the surf churned up by Alex. At the beginning of the hurricane season, there is a lot of speculation about just what a hurricane would do if it passed directly through the oil slick.

People in Jacksonville are wondering what if a storm made a direct hit, right through the oil. So we went to an expert to find out what would happen if the two mix. "I don't think it's going to start raining oil," said Tasha Warren. "In reality, we already see oil all the time. When we drive cars, we release hydrocarbons, and it comes down in the form of rain," said JU professor Quinton White.

He says a lot of the impact will depend on the hurricane. "It depends on the direction of the storm and what way the wind is blowing when it crosses the ocean," said White.

What is true is that we could see more oil on Florida shores. "The storm is slow moving, generating a lot of waves, and energy," said White. "We get a lot of fresh water on the surface, and it dilutes it. Now there's more fresh water, now the oil is up to the surface. You'll see an increase in slicks in the Gulf."

But there is one question not even White knows the answer too. "How long term would you expect this oil to last," said Warren. "This spill happened at the one of the worst places it could happen," said White.

White also tells Action News a lot of the effect will depend on how fast the hurricane moves. Hurricane Alex is moving slow, but he says if a faster moving hurricane hit the oil, we could see more crude on Florida shores and even inland.
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