Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Storm forces suspension of oil spill skimming and booming operations

Brandon Brewer, left, of Milton walks among oily absorbent booms strung along the coast in Pensacola Beach on Tuesday. At right his family huddles under an umbrella. Rough seas and high winds from Hurricane Alex hampered oil cleanup efforts along the Gulf Coast.

Associated Press

Brandon Brewer, left, of Milton walks among oily absorbent booms strung along the coast in Pensacola Beach on Tuesday. At right his family huddles under an umbrella. Rough seas and high winds from Hurricane Alex hampered oil cleanup efforts along the Gulf Coast.

Rough seas and high winds from Hurricane Alex, the category 1 storm churning in the Gulf of Mexico far west of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, forced the suspension Tuesday of skimming and booming operations off the coasts of Louisiana, Alabama and Florida, a BP spokesman said.

Inclement weather did not affect operations at the site of the wellhead, about 41 miles off the Louisiana coast, where large ships are capturing oil and drilling relief wells that offer the best chance to seal the undersea gusher.

But smaller ships contracted by BP to skim oily water, lay boom and transport personnel were idled for the day, said Bryan Ferguson, a BP representative manning the unified command station in New Orleans.

"When seas get above two to three feet, it becomes a challenge for skimming and booming," Ferguson said, noting that about 2,800 vessels of opportunity were currently contracted for the spill response.

The National Weather Service reported seas as high as 12 feet in parts of the gulf. Alex, the first hurricane of the 2010 season, is forecast to hit the Mexican coast, just south of Texas, later this week.

Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden began a tour of the region Tuesday, meeting with national and local response teams and residents affected by the spill.

In New Orleans, Biden said he knows that it's "going to be a lean summer and a lean fall" for the region's fishermen.

"A job is a lot more than about a paycheck," he said. "It's about dignity. It's about respect. … In your case, it's a way of life."

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who met Biden as he arrived Tuesday morning, said he planned to press the vice president for a stronger federal response to the spill.

Jindal said heavy patches of oil were spotted about 3 miles offshore from Grand Isle on Monday.

"We didn't see one vessel out there trying to capture that oil," he said. "We need to have a greater sense of urgency. They need to treat this like the war that it is."

Jindal added that he will ask BP to fund a 20-year, $400 million program to test seafood for oil contamination and rehabilitate fisheries.

He said 30 percent of the nation's seafood comes from waters off Louisiana, where commercial fishing is a $2 billion-a-year industry and recreational anglers contribute another $1 billion annually to the local economy.

"Our message to BP is that the cost of this program is just a fraction of the damages that could be caused if we don't do this," Jindal said.

As the vice president toured New Orleans, and later Pensacola, officials at the Florida Peninsula Command Post in Miami said they are prepared to respond should oil reach the state's southern shores — a risk that appears distant for now.

Oil from the broken undersea well is now 600 miles from the Florida Keys, and more than 100 miles from Panama City, according to members of the command post, which was established three weeks ago and houses representatives of BP, the Coast Guard, the Interior Department and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

"We're in a pretty safe place along the Florida peninsula," said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientist Eric Stabenau. "The projections are for the oil to go even further away from Florida" because of winds from Alex.

High seas and winds have delayed the launch of a new system for capturing more oil.

The system, which consists of a flexible pipe attached to a containment dome lowered over the ruptured wellhead, would siphon oil to the Helix Producer, a ship with the capacity to collect 20,000 to 25,000 barrels a day. BP spokesmen said the system should be ready to launch by July 8.

BP reports capturing about 24,000 barrels a day from the broken well, using two separate methods: a containment dome attached to the ship Discoverer Enterprise via a fixed pipe that siphons oil to the surface; and a "choke line" from the failed blowout preventer that sends crude to a second ship, the Q4000.

Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the government's point man on the spill, said on Monday that the third system would be delayed because Alex may produce 10- to 12-foot seas in the immediate area of the response effort today.

"They're going to have to stop the preparations for the Helix Producer," he said, adding that high seas and winds from Alex also could push oil farther inland to marshes and bays.

In Florida, tar balls, tar patties and sheen have been reported on beaches in the western Panhandle, mostly in Escambia County, where the Health Department issued an advisory warning swimmers to avoid waters from the Pensacola Beach Fishing Pier west to the Pensacola Pass, including Fort Pickens.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Storm forces suspension of oil spill skimming and booming operations 06/29/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 29, 2010 11:43pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Remember him? Numbers prove Ben Zobrist is one of greatest Rays of all time

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The first foray back to the Trop by the best manager the Rays have had obscured the second return visit by arguably the second-best player in franchise history.


    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) takes the field to start the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017.
  2. GOP's new repeal bill would likely leave millions more uninsured, analyses suggest


    WASHINGTON — The latest Republican bid to roll back the Affordable Care Act would likely leave millions of currently insured Americans without health coverage in the coming decades, and strip benefits and protections from millions more, a growing number of independent studies suggest.

    Vice President Mike Pence listens as President Donald Trump talks to reporters about the Graham-Cassidy health care bill during a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi at the Palace Hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, in New York. [Evan Vucci | Associated Press]
  3. Mueller casts broad net in requesting extensive records from Trump White House


    WASHINGTON — The special counsel investigating Russian election meddling has requested extensive records and email correspondence from the White House, covering the president's private discussions about firing his FBI director and his response to news that the then-national security adviser was under …

    In a photograph provided by the Russian foreign ministry, President Donald Trump meets with Sergei Lavrov, left, the Russian foreign minister, and Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, May 10, 2017. Special counsel Robert Mueller is interested in this meeting, where Trump said dismissing FBI Director James Comey had relieved "great pressure" on him, the New York Times reported on Sept. 20. [Russian Foreign Ministry via  New York Times]
  4. 'We will find our island destroyed': Hurricane Maria demolishes Puerto Rico


    SAN JUAN — Sleepless Puerto Ricans awoke Wednesday knowing to expect a thrashing from the most ferocious storm to strike the island in at least 85 years. They met nightfall confronting the ruin Hurricane Maria left behind: engorged rivers, blown-out windows, sheared roofs, toppled trees and an obliterated electric …

    Rescue vehicles from the Emergency Management Agency stand trapped under an awning during the impact of Hurricane Maria, after the storm  hit the eastern region of the island, in Humacao, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Maria has lost its major hurricane status, after raking Puerto Rico. But forecasters say some strengthening is in the forecast and Maria could again become a major hurricane by Thursday. [Carlos Giusti | Associated Press]
  5. Obamacare repeal bill offers flexibility and uncertainty


    The latest Republican proposal to undo the Affordable Care Act would grant states much greater flexibility and all but guarantee much greater uncertainty for tens of millions of people.