By Ryan Dezember
June 04, 2010, 3:50PM
GULF SHORES, Ala. -- Baldwin County's first landing of oil has been confirmed in Gulf Shores. Globs of oil were coming ashore today on the west side of Gulf State Park near Gulf-front condos and in some other areas.
A park official said that oil has come ashore throughout the state park, though the highest concentrations are at the west end. When the oil came ashore around noon, the beach was crowded and people were swimming in the Gulf. When the oil washed onto the beach, tourists began collecting it in water bottles, poking at it with sticks and even touching it, the official said.
The reddish globs have the consistency of honey and don't wash off easily.
Cleanup crews had yet to arrive an hour and a half after the oily material washed ashore. Two boats tried to corral the oil with boom but appeared unsuccessful. A cleanup crew chief who arrived at the scene said the water was too rough to corral the oil, and that he was waiting for about 100 laborers to arrive to clean up the mess with shovels.
In Orange Beach, Coastal Resources Manager Phillip West said that he had responded to reports of tarballs and oil-covered debris, like beer bottles and bits of Styrofoam but he said no oil had yet made landfall east of the state park.
Isolated small patches of oil have washed ashore at the Bon Secour National Wildlife Rufuge, Jereme Phillips, refuge manager said.
The small patches were discovered between Mobile Street and Laguna Key subdivision, Phillips said. The oily material came ashore around 3 p.m., he said.
Beachgoers urged to stay out of Alabama coastal waters
GULF SHORES, Ala. -- State health officials warned beachgoers to stay out of Alabama's coastal waters Friday as reddish brown gobs of oil washed ashore for the first time, prompting a ban on fishing as well.
The announcement by State Health Officer Dr. Donald Williamson, along with the scent of oil hanging in the air along the shore, cast a pall over the summer tourist season.
"We're strongly encouraging people not to get into the water because we have visible oil at Gulf Shores and Fort Morgan and we anticipate it moving eastward," he said. "These are precautionary measures to protect the public's health."
He said the advisory to stay out of the water covered all the beachfront from Mississippi to the Florida line, as well as bay waters at historic Fort Morgan on Baldwin County's shore. The ban on fishing covers all Gulf waters on the Alabama coast, as well as waters on the eastern side of Mobile Bay.
Williamson said state offices were swamped with reports of oil hitting the state's coast on Friday.
"The phone hasn't stopped ringing for two hours," he said.
Health officials say it's best to stay away from oil on the beach or in the water, but limited exposure is not considered reason to see a doctor. Prolonged exposure to large amounts of the toxic substance, however, can lead to serious health problems.
The gobs and strands of oil arrived along with the faint, noxious smell of oil as a southwest wind blew in from BP's spreading oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico.
"You don't smell the beach breeze at all," said Wendi Butler, 40, out for her morning stroll.
"I really smelled it down there," said Jennifer Powell, combing the beach for shells with her husband. "It was like it was burning my nose a little bit."
The Powells, from Russellville, Ky., planned to return to the beach later this summer, but now they're not sure they want to come back.
"You won't be able to get in the water, and it's going to get all over you and all," she said. "I don't think I want my kids in that."
Butler said moved to Perdido Bay from Mobile days before the spill. Now, her two kids don't want to visit because of the oil and she can't find a job.
"Restaurants are cutting back to their winter staffs because of it. They're not hiring," she said.
The oil globs that hit Alabama beaches were accompanied by a dense, dark foam that gathered in pools and remained for hours. It was brownish in color and felt oily. Scientists aren't sure what the foam is, but it seems to be linked to the spill, said Monty Graham, a researcher with the Dauphin Island Sea Lab.
"It always seems to proceed oil coming ashore in all the various places by a couple of days. It's like an outer halo of activity," he said.
Foam found in Louisiana tested negative for the hydrocarbons typically found in oil, Graham said, "but that doesn't mean it's not associated with the spill."
Some believe the foam could be residue from dispersants used at the site of the well or the remains of microscopic sea life killed by the spill, he said.
Officials report no new beached oil; cleanup crews working to remove past spoil
By Brendan Kirby
June 05, 2010, 12:29PM
MOBILE, Ala. -- Officials monitoring the Alabama and Mississippi coasts have not seen any new oil wash ashore, a representative of the Incident Command Center said today.
That has given teams of people a chance to clean up oil from Pensacola, Fla., to Orange Beach, Ala., spokeswoman Malissa Valdes said.
Assisting those teams are two groups of "qualified community responders," people hired to aid in the effort. Valdes said 200 folks worked the Pensacola area this morning while 200 more were in Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores.
The responders are hired from the unemployment rolls and go to work after four to 40 hours of training, depending on the tasks they will perform, Valdes said. She said today is the first day those people have been working.
Valdes also said people interested in volunteering should call 211. Volunteers must undergo two hours of training and then are equipped with global positioning satellite devices and cameras to search for oil. Once they find something, she added, they are supposed to report it the Incident Command Center.
Seven volunteers worked this morning, she said.
Hard to think. Will try to fill in some gaps. Pray. Pray.