Mississippi coast hit by tar mats ‘size of school buses’
By Geoff Pender, Melissa Scallan and Donna Melton
Thursday, July 8, 2010
LONG BEACH — What appeared to be the largest amount of oily tar to hit the Mississippi Coast at one time was washing in from west of the Long Beach Harbor into the edge of Pass Christian late Wednesday night.
Crews also were removing large amounts of tar balls and patties that washed ashore Wednesday morning on a stretch of Hancock County beach from Nicholson Avenue to Lakeshore Drive.
Harrison County Emergency Manager Rupert Lacy said the material in Harrison County was “tar mats and patties … kind of the consistency of liver.” It was coming in over a 5- to 6-mile stretch from about a mile west of the harbor to the eastern edge of Pass Christian. He said the material was in large mats, floating near the bottom, and breaking up and washing onto the beach in smaller pieces.
Long Beach Fire Chief George Bass, the city’s emergency manager, said Wednesday night there were some tar mats in the water “the size of school buses.”
Lacy said workers began cleaning smaller pieces early Wednesday morning. Late Wednesday night there were about 300 cleanup workers out, planning to work through the night. He said some boats had been out trying to scoop up some of the material as well.
Mayor Billy Skellie said the largest tar patties, those the size of school buses, are out in the water and breaking up before they reach the beach.
Some parts of the beach are covered with thick, gooey oil balls, he said.
“There are two spots that are 20 yards wide and 40 yards long where it’s pretty heavy,” he said. “It’s the largest amount of oil the cleanup crew said they’ve ever seen.”
Lacy said he suspects rough seas the last few days had “pushed the product down,” and as seas are returning to normal the tar is rolling onto the beach in eddies.
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