(Editor’s Note: This is my ‘we are so screwed’ post for 6.2.2010 unless Barry pulls a FUBAR with the Israeli situation. Does anybody have current information on what I’mADinnerJacket over in Iran is doing right now? Is Israel about to get hit on many fronts?)
PENSACOLA BEACH, Fla. — A Florida beach might get hit with oil from the Deepwater Horizon accident for the first time Wednesday as sheen likely caused by the accident was reported less than 10 miles off Pensacola Beach.
A charter boat captain reported the oil Tuesday afternoon and state and local environmental officials confirmed that it was about 9.5 miles offshore. Winds are forecast to blow from the south and west, pushing the outer edges of massive slick from the spill closer to western Panhandle beaches.
Emergency crews began Tuesday scouring the beaches for oil and shoring up miles of boom. Escambia County will use it to block oil from reaching inland waterways, but plans to leave beaches unprotected because they are too difficult to protect and easier to clean up.
The spill’s arrival coincides with the beginning of the Panhandle’s summer tourism season, which normally brings millions of dollars to the region.
“It’s inevitable that we will see it on the beaches,” said Keith Wilkins, Escambia’s deputy chief of neighborhood and community services.
The oil has been creeping toward Florida since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, killing 11 workers and eventually collapsing into the Gulf of Mexico. An estimated 20 million to 40 million gallons of oil has spewed into the Gulf, eclipsing the 11 million that leaked from the Exxon Valdez disaster. The rig was being operated for petroleum giant BP, which has tried unsuccessfully for six week to stanch the oil.
The Florida report followed an orange and oily mess washing up on Alabama’s beaches earlier Tuesday. Crews cleaned up the oil that they described as having the consistency of a “tarry mousse,” but health officials closed the beaches to swimming.
Pensacola Beach officials said their request for about $150,000 from BP to buy sifting machines and a tractor to help remove oil from the beach’s famous white sands has lingered unanswered for more than three weeks. BP has promised it will pay any expenses, but Panhandle officials say the bureaucracy has been slow. Some think the Federal Emergency Management Agency should be running the cleanup operation, not BP. (FEMA? These guys couldn’t find New Orleans after Katrina.)
Meanwhile, BP has cut the well pipe in order to install a cap. The oil output has increased with no guarantee that this maneuver is going to work any better than the previous. Everybody start praying.