NEW ORLEANS July 22, 2010 -- Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency today as Tropical Storm Bonnie heads directly toward the site of the Gulf Oil spill, threatening weeks worth of progress.
BP officials and the federal government are scrambling to prepare for storm, which grew in strength today to become the second named Atlantic storm of the season.
Bonnie is currently blasting the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Puerto Rico, and it's expected to continue to track west, right into the gulf's warm waters that can supercharge a tropical storm into a hurricane.
Watch 'World News' for the latest on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
All operations at the spill site came to a standstill today as evacuations got underway. Non-essential workers have already been shipped ashore, and drilling on the relief wells has been suspended. It's a disappointing setback for a drilling effort that was just days away from finally connecting with the damaged well.
Jindal said that BP is better prepared for this storm than it was when Hurricane Alex churned the gulf's waters a few weeks ago.
"I think their plans are better than they were when they first started hurricane season," Jindal, a Republican, said, even as he expressed his concerns about the damage it can do to cleanup efforts.
The worst case scenario is that all ships monitoring the blown-out well would have to be evacuated, and no one would know if the containment cap failed and oil was again pouring unchecked into the waters.
Even if the ships leave, the plan now is to leave the containment cap on. BP and federal officials on Thursday discussed removing it in the event of an evacuation.
"We are prepared to leave the well unattended during this particular event," National Incident Cmdr. Adm. Thad Allen said today.
The first drill ship to go would be the DDIII, but the government and BP are trying to see if they can keep robots on site to monitor the cap if the storm hits.
"The vessels that operate these ROVs [robots] are some of the last ones to leave," BP executive Doug Suttles said today.
On land, essential equipment and personnel are moving further inland, as the storm threatens the cleanup of the millions of gallons of oil that have already spilled into the gulf. Workers are pulling up booms from the waters.
Jindal said that it's particularly dangerous, given that most of the oil in the gulf's waters remains submerged.
"One of the things that a storm can do is pick up some of that oil and redeposit it on our coast and inside of our wetlands," Jindal told ABC News today. "What we are very worried about is the oil getting pushed farther inland along the coast."
"[The storm] could break the anchors, pull it out, and more than anything, it will tear it up, and once it's torn up, it's useless," said Capt. Rich Adams, who's involved in the cleanup efforts in Florida.
BP has set up a hurricane hotline -- 281.366.6669.
"As the storm approaches the spill site, the winds are going to come out of the southeast to east and drive some of the oil into the shoreline, into Louisiana shoreline," said Jeff Masters of Weather Underground.