The BP Gulf oil spill is now anywhere from 19 million to 39 million gallons.
But that large of a number is hard for the human mind to grasp. To help, The Associated Press gives us this metaphor:
“In the worst case scenario, if 39 million gallons has spilled, the oil would fill enough jugs to stretch from the Louisiana marshes to Prince William Sound in Alaska. That’s where the Exxon Valdez ran aground in 1989, spilling nearly 11 million gallons.”
OK, so that’s not really helpful at all. Now the distance is too large to imagine.
Also unhelpful was an earlier AP story, which said:
“Under the highest Gulf spill estimate, nearly 39 million gallons may have leaked, enough to fill 30 school gymnasiums.”
Honestly, are all school gymnasiums the same size?
So I searched for the capacities of several northeast Indiana bodies of water and discovered that my own sense of volume estimation is way, way off.
First was Lake James in Pokagon State Park. If you count all three basins that comprise the lake, Lake James contains 10.8 billion gallons of water. That’s billion, with a “b.”
Next, I thought maybe the Hurshtown Reservoir would be more help. But I was wrong again. That reservoir contains 1.8 billion gallons of water.
I need a lot less water. So I called Natalie Eggemann, the public information officer of the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department. She called around the department and discovered that Reservoir Pond on South Clinton Street at Creighton Avenue contains 5.5 million gallons of water.
So the Gulf oil spill is at least four or maybe up to seven Reservoir Ponds.
Is that surprisingly small to you? Or maybe surprisingly large?
Above photo from August 1950 at Reservoir Park in Fort Wayne from News-Sentinel archives