Oil spill makes first landfall on Mississippi mainland, hits Alabama beaches

Monday, June 28, 2010
By Paul Martin

George Altman
AL.com
June 28, 2010

Countless patches of light oil sheen moved into waters north of the barrier islands of Alabama and Mississippi on Sunday, as brown and orange blobs washed ashore from Orange Beach to as far west as Ocean Springs.

Boats worked to corral iridescent sheen just north of Dauphin Island’s Katrina cut Sunday morning.

A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast for Sunday showed the main body of light oil completely surrounding Dauphin Island for the first time since oil started pouring into the Gulf of Mexico in late April.

On Saturday, cleanup workers collected some 2,700 pounds of tarballs from the island’s west end, according to a report obtained by the Press-Register, and oil continued to land on the beach in that area Sunday.

But on the island’s east end, there was very little sign of oil. A few dozen people sat on the public beach, sunbathing or reading, and several swam in the Gulf.

Dauphin Island is on the “front line” of the spill, Mayor Jeff Collier said Sunday.

“We’ve now entered the new normal,” Collier said. “It’s like, here we go again.”

Collier added that the oil isn’t coming in one big, solid blob but instead in patches scattered throughout Gulf of Mexico waters.

Countless patches of light oil sheen moved into waters north of the barrier islands of Alabama and Mississippi on Sunday, as brown and orange blobs washed ashore from Orange Beach to as far west as Ocean Springs.

Boats worked to corral iridescent sheen just north of Dauphin Island’s Katrina cut Sunday morning.

A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast for Sunday showed the main body of light oil completely surrounding Dauphin Island for the first time since oil started pouring into the Gulf of Mexico in late April.

On Saturday, cleanup workers collected some 2,700 pounds of tarballs from the island’s west end, according to a report obtained by the Press-Register, and oil continued to land on the beach in that area Sunday.

But on the island’s east end, there was very little sign of oil. A few dozen people sat on the public beach, sunbathing or reading, and several swam in the Gulf.

Dauphin Island is on the “front line” of the spill, Mayor Jeff Collier said Sunday.

“We’ve now entered the new normal,” Collier said. “It’s like, here we go again.”

Collier added that the oil isn’t coming in one big, solid blob but instead in patches scattered throughout Gulf of Mexico waters.

The storm was projected to follow a path well south of the spill site, but experts warned that it could take an unexpected turn and has the potential to disrupt cleanup efforts even from a distance.

Amy Godsey, a meteorologist with the Florida Department of Emergency Management, said rough waves churned by the cyclone could make corralling and burning oil difficult and will likely push more oil and tar on beaches as far east as the Florida Panhandle throughout the week.

Near the Florida-Alabama border, oil was found on sands of the Perdido Beach resort and at Orange Beach’s Romar Beach, coming in “heavy strands of orange streamers,” according to an aerial report provided Sunday by Gulf Shores spokesman Grant Brown.

City officials also reported oil beached about five miles east of Fort Morgan and submerged oil plumes in waters one mile south of Orange Beach.

Meanwhile, large, viscous blobs dotted beaches and floated in marshes in Ocean Springs’ Gulf Park Estates.

“We’ve been lucky so far, but I think our luck is about to run out,” said B.D. Root, an official with the Jackson County Recreation Department.

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