Here's one of the scary lessons of the disaster in the Gulf: Once oil starts flowing, it really doesn't like to sit still.
Those slick globs gushing out of Deepwater Horizon? They're washing up first on the nearest beaches, then clogging the delicate wetlands nearby.
But once that oil gets swept into the powerful Gulf Stream, as appears to be happening already, it can travel for hundreds - perhaps thousands - of miles. From the brackish waters off Louisiana. Past Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida panhandle. Into the aptly named Loop Current that carries the poison guck around the bottom of Florida clear up the East Coast - toward Jones Beach, the Hamptons, Montauk and beyond.
This is no local story anymore!
"The same Gulf Stream that brings swimmable, warm waters to our shores can now also bring oil from this disaster here," Sen. Charles Schumer was warning at week's end.
Schumer was asking the U.S. Coast Guard for a preparedness briefing and an Area Contingency Plan, saying we need to prepare around here as well. Our beaches and shorelines may also be vulnerable. Long Island sticks out a bit, you know.
This may sound like nightmare stuff, but it's far from nuts. Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have already created a truly frightening simulation of what might happen if the Loop Current grabs hold. Their first batch of tracking maps stretches as far as the Outer Banks of North Carolina. And no one is saying the flow has to end there.
The first step is obviously to stop the gusher at the source or at least to channel it until relief wells can be dug. The next step is to begin the damage control. But imaginations still have to run wild.
From the start, BP and its apologists have refused to think the unthinkable, that a terrible explosion might not be containable a mile below the surface of the Gulf.
The least we can do now is to think the unthinkable about our own home territory. How ready are we for the oil to come here?
SUMMER OF OIL
1. Gusher Hampton
2. Montauk Unleaded
3. Robert Moses State Drill
4. SPF LIE
5. Long Island Oily Ducks
ASKED AND UNANSWERED
Thanks for the air-quality alert on Friday, but what exactly am I supposed to do? Stop breathing entirely? . . . Is a threat any less a threat when it's delivered through Facebook? Didn't feel any different to one rattled teacher at Massapequa Park's Birch Lane Elementary School . . . Clearly John Licausi Jr., convicted of aggravated vehicular homicide, made some dangerous moves behind the wheel. But are Suffolk police now taking a fresh look at their high-speed chase policy? . . . Is anyone AGAINST a thorough environment review of Plum Island? The old animal-disease lab must have hosted some pretty virulent stains.
LONG ISLANDERS OF THE WEEK
They've lived through painful layoffs. They've shouldered frustrating service cuts. Clearly, there's more bad to come. Now, the Long Island Rail Road's 300,000 daily riders hear of freshly bloated salaries in these tough times. It's the riders who ARE the LIRR, its most ardent boosters, its most loyal constituents. They understand the importance of the nation's largest commuter line rolling every day. They are - and pay for - the freight.
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