AMU Environmental

Tropical Storm Bonnie – The Storm That Never Was

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By Dr. Carol Pollio
Late last week we struggled to move more than 500 trucks of critical resources away from flood-prone areas to higher ground in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida in advance of what was predicted to be Tropical Storm Bonnie. We executed our severe weather contingency plan for Incident Command Post Mobile – and awaited the storm.
We were lucky. Tropical Storm Bonnie became Tropical Depression Bonnie and missed the panhandle of Florida entirely. That was great news – and even better news was the fact that the well remained shut-in and no oil has escaped now for 10 days. To put this in perspective, the amount of oil we skimmed prior to the well being shut-in was approximately 25,000 barrels in one day. A week later, that total was 56 barrels per day!


I do know that hurricane preparations set back the well kill project by several weeks, but since we are moving further into what is predicted to be an active hurricane season, this difficult work can only help us to be prepared for future storm events.
Today, the hustle began to get operations in place again. We are critically looking at each resource and deciding which will be re-deployed on scene. The incident has changed significantly over the nearly 100 days we have been engaged in it. Plans are being drawn up for the long-term future of this incident, versus the short-term, emergency operations that we’ve been performing to date. I can tell you that in all of my time working on wildland fires and law enforcement incidents, I have never seen an operation stood down and stood back up again so quickly and so well. Consider this – this 100 day incident, the largest oil spill in U.S. history, had more than 46,000 workers on the ground, more than 4,000 vessels underway, and still managed to safely and quickly stand down operations and, amazingly, stand them up again just a day or so later. Wow!


Dr. Carol A. Pollio has actively served in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve for the past 27 years and holds the rank of Commander. She is currently the Field Operations Supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region, where she manages 13 Ecological Services field offices from Maine to Virginia.
Dr. Pollio is also the Program Director for the Environmental Studies degree program at American Military University.

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