Coast Guard official sees low odds of Gulf spill reaching Loop Current

But overall, Allen called it “maddening” that unpredictable winds leave officials without a clear picture of where the massive oil slick will drift. “It could go any direction based on the wind,” he said.

“If there is a good side to this at all, it is that the oil has tended to stay in one place because the winds have been shifting,” he said. But Allen noted it threatens not just Louisiana, but Florida, Mississippi and Alabama as well.

The spill stems from the April 20 explosion at an offshore drilling rig leased by oil giant BP. An estimated 5,000 barrels per day are continuing to gush from a damaged undersea well that BP has been unable to block.

The containment effort suffered a huge setback Saturday when a massive dome made of concrete and steel that BP lowered to the sea floor did not operate as intended.

The dome was meant to block a large uncontrolled leak and channel the oil to allow its capture, but crystals formed by gas and water clogged the structure and made it buoyant, forcing BP to set it aside.

BP is now considering an option called a “junk shot” that would clog the leak with materials such as shredded tires and golf balls, Allen said. He noted it has been used before, but never under such difficult conditions.

“We are working at about 5,000 feet of depth which has never been done before,” Allen said.

BP is also drilling a so-called relief well to stop the spill, but that could take two to three months.