It may be a prank — or it may be raining oil in Louisiana.
A videotape posted on the Russia Today news site shows an amateur cameraman filming oil-slicked streets in River Ridge, a suburb of New Orleans.
The camera pans across oil running down the streets and into storm drains. The videographer, who isn’t identified at the RT Web site, describes it as “the same brown bubbly stuff we saw yesterday in the Gulf under the Bay St. Louis Bridge.”
He continues: “You can see it. It’s raining oil. It is literally raining oil in River Ridge. … Is this not crazy, dude?”
Because oil generally doesn’t evaporate, it shouldn’t be possible, under normal circumstances, for it to rain down from the skies. But Charlie Paxton of the National Weather Service tells WTSP in Tampa that “a water spout could pick up some oil and carry it a short distance.”
Another possibility is that the dispersant BP has been using to thin the oil, Corexit, may have made some of it light enough to be absorbed in the atmosphere.
This skeptical article at Fast Company declares it “not likely” that it’s raining oil, but it quotes the EU Times as stating that “when combined with the heating Gulf of Mexico waters, [Corexit's] molecules will be able to ‘phase transition’ from their present liquid to a gaseous state allowing them to be absorbed into clouds and allowing their release as toxic rain upon all of Eastern North America.”
And the article also points to a report (PDF) from the newly-renamed federal Minerals Management Service which states that oil, if it’s light enough, has been known to evaporate. “So it might be possible that oil is mixing with rain,” Fast Company‘s Ariel Schwartz concedes.
“Worst case scenario? It’s petroleum mixed with Corexit, the cancer-causing dispersant BP’s spraying on its oil slick,” writes ben Wojdyla at Jalopnik. “Best case scenario? Dirty roads.”
The following video was posted on Russia Today, June 23, 2010.