NEW ORLEANS — Government officials said late Wednesday night that oil might be leaking from a well in the Gulf of Mexico at a rate five times that suggested by initial estimates.
In a hastily called news conference, Rear Adm. Mary E. Landry of the Coast Guard said a scientist from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had concluded that oil is leaking at the rate of 5,000 barrels a day, not 1,000 as had been estimated. While emphasizing that the estimates are rough given that the leak is at 5,000 feet below the surface, Admiral Landry said the new estimate came from observations made in flights over the slick, studying the trajectory of the spill and other variables.
Unofficial estimates by observers think it is possible waaay worse, about twenty times the original estimate:
This, and other radar images that SkyTruth is getting, confirm what we've seen on the NASA/MODIS images so far, and support our conservative calculations showing that in the first week of this spill at least 6 million gallons have entered the Gulf. That's a spill rate of at least 850,000 gallons (20,000 barrels) per day, 20 times larger than the official Goast Guard estimate of 42,000 gallons per day.
And if those numbers mean nothing to you, maybe this asssessment will hit home:
The Exxon Valdez tanker spill totaled 11 million gallons. We could exceed that in just a few days, if we haven't already.
Political impact? You betcha:
The oil slick will hit the coast tomorrow.