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Drilling Rig Runs Aground Amidst Alaskan Storm

January 04, 2013; 12:18 AM

UPDATE on Jan. 2, 2012:

Weather conditions have calmed down, including much weaker winds, at the site where the Shell drilling rig grounded in Sitkalidak Island, Alaska.

However, the calmer conditions will not last for long. During the day Wednesday, there might be 20- to 35-mph winds from the southeast with even higher gusts at times. Winds from the southeast are an onshore direction, allowing wave and swell heights to build.

Rain and snow showers will also be around, reducing the visibility at times.

UPDATE on Jan. 1, 2012:

Shell has released a statement on their website in response to the incident:

"...We have already begun a review - working with our marine experts, partners and suppliers - of how this sequence of events, including the failure of multiple engines on the MV Aiviq (towing vessel) led to this incident. We intend to use lessons from that review to strengthen our maritime fleet operations, globally. The incident did not involve our drilling operations, nor does it involve any possibility of crude oil release."

More than 250 people are involved in a response to a Shell drilling rig which ran aground around 9:00 p.m. AK time yesterday on the southeast side of Sitkalidak Island.

The rig, known as Kulluk, was adrift on New Year's Eve after the towlines between it and its two tow vessels parted amidst rough seas.

The condition of the grounded rig and its impacts on the environment are not yet known.

Overflights are scheduled to assess the situation, according to Shell, pending improved weather conditions.

"The extreme weather conditions and high seas continue to be a challenge," Susan Childs, Incident Commander for Shell, said in a press release. "...Our priority right now is maintaining the safety of our response personnel and evaluating next steps," Childs said.

When the Kulluk grounded, a large and powerful storm was approaching southwestern Alaska.

"The storm was stirring high winds and large swells," Meteorologist Meghan Evans said.

Winds were sustained between 30 and 40 miles per hour with gusts reaching as high as 55 miles per hour. Light rain and fog were reducing the visibility to as low as two to three miles. Monday night, swells reached as high as 35 feet.

The Kulluk is said to be carrying 139,000 gallons of ultra low sulfur diesel and 12,000 gallons of combined lube oil and hydraulic fluid.

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