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Gulf oil spill: Will a hurricane throw off efforts at the well?

Coast Guard officials are preparing for the possibility that they’ll need to temporarily shut down efforts to deal with the Gulf oil spill as a low-pressure system develops in the western Caribbean.

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Gulf oil spill: Oily residue comes ashore in the surf in Gulf Shores, Ala., Friday. As a potential hurricane brews in the western Caribbean, Coast Guard officials are preparing for the possibility that they will have to pause their Gulf oil spill cleanup efforts.

Dave Martin/AP

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A low-pressure system developing in the western Caribbean has Coast Guard officials preparing for the possibility that they’ll need to temporarily shut down efforts to deal with the Gulf oil spill.

A US Air Force plane was conducting a reconnaissance mission Friday to determine the strength of the storm, according to the National Hurricane Center. Already, the hurricane center has predicted that the low-pressure system has an 80 percent chance of becoming a hurricane in the next 48 hours as it moves toward the Yucatán Peninsula and into the Gulf of Mexico.

In a media briefing with reporters Friday morning, Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said he will suspend recovery efforts if winds reach a gale force of 40 knots or greater (46 miles an hour or more) and the storm is judged to be at least 120 hours away from hitting the base of operations at the well.

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