Officials Rush to Prepare Gulf Coast as Winds Hold Off Oil Spill
MOBILE, Ala. - Luck was with emergency responders Tuesday as winds continued to push the surface sheen of an ongoing oil disaster off shore and allowed time for further preparation all along the Gulf Coast.
The favorable weather kept the surface spill more than 30 miles offshore.
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist said it's not a matter of if but when oil from the "ginormous oil volcano" impacts Florida shores. Initial impact - now forecast for Thursday - will only be the first of successive and ongoing effects.
"This is going to be with us a long time," Crist said aboard a Florida Air National Guard C-130 plane that ferried him over British Petroleum's Deepwater Horizon well site. It was Crist's third flight over the spill that's now more than 600 miles around.
"It just grows every time," Crist said.
But weather is favoring preparations on the Gulf Coast.
"We have been given the gift of time," said Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry, leading the Unified Command Center here, where more than 350 federal, state and BP personnel are coordinating the spill response. The favorable weather, Landry said, will "allow us to continue (to use) very aggressive, very robust resources.
Nothing was done to stem more than 200,000 gallons a day belching into the Gulf from nearly a mile down. The best-case scenario means control of the spill is at least a week away.
BP Chief Operating Office Doug Suttles said a dome to cover and contain the spill is being constructed in Louisiana and will take two days to ship to the site in the Gulf. Suttles said efforts to place the container could start this weekend.
Keith Seilhan, BP's operations director for the Gulf, told Crist the dome is "caveman technology" that uses a 125-ton, four-story steel and concrete container that will be dropped on top of the leak to contain the spewing oil and treat it. A BP release said the system, if effective, could collect as much of 85 percent of the oil released from the blown well.
But it's less than certain it will work.
The company is also moving forward with plans to drill a relief well that would intersect the 7-inch well that's leaking now.
Oil wasn't the only thing BP had flowing. It also sent $25 million each to four Gulf Coast states, including Florida, to help pay for preparation and recovery.
Crist said "we'll eat through that fairly quickly."
Crist was critical Monday of action that he said was not aggressive enough. The governor promised action in Pensacola, Fla., on Tuesday morning before flying over the spill site in the Gulf and touring operations here.
Crist relied on NASA, via Hollywood, for an analogy. He asked who had seen "Apollo 13," the movie about the disastrous space mission that ended in the safe return of astronauts despite catastrophic systems failures on board the ship.
"We're Americans," Crist said of the determination and ingenuity displayed by NASA engineers. "We've got to do that."