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Storms could scuttle cleanup efforts, force containment vessels to retreat, or propel spilled crude and tar balls over vast expanses of sea and beach.
Meteorologists say that climate conditions are ripe for an unusually destructive hurricane season, the storm-prone period that runs from June 1 to the end of November in the Gulf. Oceanographers say that could hurt the clean-up.
"If a storm comes into this situation it could vastly complicate everything," said Florida State University oceanography professor Ian MacDonald.
"All efforts on the shoreline and at sea, the booms and structures and rigs involved in cleanup and containment, could stop working."