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Gulf beaches hit as distant Hurricane Alex pushes oil onto land

Oily waves come ashore in Orange Beach, Ala., Wednesday. Heavy seas from Hurricane Alex helped push more oil from the BP gulf disaster toward the Florida and Alabama coasts.

Associated Press

Oily waves come ashore in Orange Beach, Ala., Wednesday. Heavy seas from Hurricane Alex helped push more oil from the BP gulf disaster toward the Florida and Alabama coasts.

PENSACOLA BEACH — Rough waves from faraway Hurricane Alex pushed tar lumps the size of dinner plates onto Navarre Beach in the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday.

Wind and rain kept boom and skimming crews from cleaning the crude from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, about 41 miles off the Louisiana coast. The storm has not caused suspension of long-term operations at the site of the crippled wellhead.

"The weather has hampered the cleanup. Our night crews went out there to try and verify exactly how much it was, and it's about half a mile," said Santa Rosa County spokeswoman Joy Tsubooka.

She said cleanup crews would work throughout Wednesday, but lightning and rain could slow the work.

Alex made landfall Wednesday night in Mexico, 110 miles south of Brownsville, Texas, with top sustained winds of 105 mph. Alex flooded roads and forced the evacuation of Mexican fishing villages.

Two tornadoes formed around Brownsville, including one that flipped over a trailer. No injuries were reported.

Six-foot waves and 25 mph winds were forecast through today just offshore from the Mississippi Delta in Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle.

Alabama beaches also were splattered with oil and tar balls, even with Alex more than 500 miles away. Long stretches were stained brown as far as 60 yards from the edge of the water.

Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said forecasts for the northern Gulf Coast call for seas to be 6 feet or higher through late today, too high for another method used to fight the spill offshore: burning in place.

What's more, he said, a 2- to 3-foot storm surge from Alex likely would push oil inland, potentially to unanticipated places such as private homes, which could complicate cleanup efforts and the compensation of victims.

"We're going to need some rules," Allen said. "We have to define what's oil-spill related and what's hurricane damage. If oil from this spill is pushed inland, let's say into a house as a result of the hurricane, that spill is legitimate damage from the oil spill and is subject to be paid."

Information from the Associated Press and the Miami Herald were used in this report.

Gulf beaches hit as distant Hurricane Alex pushes oil onto land 06/30/10 [Last modified: Friday, July 2, 2010 9:00am]
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