The Impact of Oily Hurricane Storm Surge

Hurricane storm surges cause flooding and structural damage in communities and even loss of life to animals and humans. They also spread contaminants that can have significantly harmful ecological effects on the environment. The impact of this effect can be evident immediately or progressively over time.

Storm surges are the result of water being pushed on to land much in the way waves crash onto a beach, only with a very significant difference: A hurricane is basically a cyclone on water which means that surge waters moving on land from a hurricane are rushing in at a much higher speed; they can carry way more force, and can be as tall as a single story building. The actual size of a storm surge will depend on the speed at which the hurricane itself is traveling.

In addition to impacting a wide breadth of coastline, a hurricane storm surge can travel inland up to twenty-five miles impacting and polluting other bodies of water as it goes. Everyone knows that oil and water do not mix, but not many people are aware that even small amounts of oil from organic sources such as the plant oils used for cooking can have harmful or even devastating effects on plants and wildlife.

The oil that has spilled into the Gulf of Mexico via the Deepwater Horizon event is not oil in the sense of what many people think of when they hear the word. The general public’s concept of oil is based on what it becomes after it has been refined and separated from its volatile compounds making it “safer” for use as a lubricant or a fuel.

While it is true that unrefined crude oil can vary in density and fluidity, and while it is also true that as it leaks out into a body of water it will ultimately change in composition, the bottom line is that it is not safe for ingestion by humans or animals, which basically makes it poison. If this poison is spread inland via hurricane storm surge our food supply gets poisoned in lakes, rivers, estuaries, and every other body of water that humans and wildlife rely on for sustenance.

When oily water is pushed inland in a hurricane storm surge it makes what is already a bad situation all the more worse. Storm surges on their own cause plenty enough damage without the added detriment that the contaminants of oil polluted water carries with it.