Coming Storm Throws Loop in Oil Cap Progress

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A tropical depression now churning over the Bahamas has its sights set on the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Forecasters say the storm could hit the Gulf as early as Saturday.

Work to permanently stop the oil leak has come to a near standstill as crews prepare to evacuate the area. But leaving could mean opening the cap, which is currently holding up, and letting oil gush out once again. There are 65 ships attending to the spill.

"For the safety and the precaution of the crew, they're going to have to pull everything out," said John Hofmeister, CEO of Citizens for Affordable Energy.

Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said scientists and drilling experts are working to figure out how to minimize damage at the spill site, where the oil flow may have been just days away from being permanently capped.

"If we had to leave the well capped and unattended right now, we'd probably be looking at a gap of three or four days where we would not have surveillance on scene," he explained.

That means officials must decide whether to allow more oil to leak into the Gulf.

"If a hurricane does come by, it would probably be safer to release some of the pressure by releasing some of the oil to protect that cap and to protect the wellhead," said Don Van Niewenhuise, a geoscientist at the University of Houston.

On shore, workers are taking away the booms that were set up to protect the Gulf coastline from the spill. The fear is that a hurricane could smash the booms into delicate inland waterways.

"It could break the anchors, pull it out, and more than anything it will tear (the boom) up," Capt. Rich Adams of Vessels of Opportunity said. "And once it's torn up, it's useless."

BP said the booms might not be needed after the storm threat is over -- a hint of good news for long-suffering residents.

"I want my Gulf back," Adams added. "I want to be able to go out there, go diving, go fishing."

Meanwhile, five pelicans injured in the oil spill will get a new life at suburban Chicago's Brookfield Zoo. The birds were covered with oil and unable to fly.

"If they hadn't been rescued, between the oil and the fact that they couldn't fly, they were in pretty dire straits," bird curator Tim Snyder said.

After some rehab in Mississippi, the pelicans got a checkup at their new Illinois home. Officials say they could live up to 30 years.

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