On its current path, Tropical Storm Karen — which may become a hurricane by Saturday — will travel over several offshore oil projects in the Gulf of Mexico before hitting Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama this weekend. There’s no telling what impact that could have.
The storm is already blowing winds over 65 miles per hour, and some expect it to worsen. On Thursday, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) declared a state of emergency for his state, preempting Karen’s landfall and a potentially major storm surge. And despite the government shutdown, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials have been called back to work to prepare for the storm.
As this map from SkyTruth illustrates, Karen’s path puts it right on top of many oil extraction projects that are either finished or under construction. The map indicates Karen’s path in blue, oil wells in orange dots, and oil pipelines with orange lines:
CNBC reported earlier this year that oil rigs and platforms “stand ready” for hurricane season, and there has been constant innovation to make the structures more safe. But they do have a history of not standing up to the difficulty of a major hurricane; in 2005, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita destroyed a total 109 oil platforms and five drilling rigs in the gulf. The risk could be greater now, given the boom in oil project construction in the gulf and the continuously dangerous state of drilling.
Karen will be the structures’ first test of the season, but it likely won’t be their last.