Oil spill crews keep eye on Alex

June 28, 2010 8:38:41 PM PDT
While Alex isn't expected to move over the oil spill in the Gulf, crews are working on the spill are preparing for storm surges and 12 foot waves. Some crews along Louisiana's coast are already picking up and moving boom and other supplies.

The U.S. Coast Guard says it's watching the storm closely and is already making some changes. Buras serves as a safe harbor for this storm. It is located 20 miles up from the mouth of the Mississippi, where already there are signs Tropical Storm Alex is in the Gulf. This storm won't have to make a direct hit to cause a slowdown.

Calvin Gradley shouldn't have much boom on his boat. But there it is on the deck instead of in the water collecting oil.

"The oil it sucks it up," said Gradley, an oil spill cleanup worker.

His boat is one of dozens brought in to this marina Monday night when the weather started to get rough just offshore.

"Due to the weather, they brought us all in," Gradley said.

Fifty miles offshore at the sight of leaking well, most work goes on. For now, the Coast Guard says 12 foot waves are likely later this week as Tropical Storm Alex intensifies, but drilling rigs and containment ships can apparently put up with that.

An effort to add another ship, however, is now on standby until the storm passes.

And there is the nagging thought that worsening weather could stop the whole operation by the end of the week.

"If we have to evacuate a site because of a hurricane, we estimate there could be a break of about 14 days," U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen said.

The largest effect from the storm could be on the more than 7.5 million feet of boom already protecting Gulf coastline.

In a storm, it's all useless. Waves and surge will wash oil over it; high winds could blow it hopelessly into the marshes, depositing all the oil the booms picked up in the marshes, too.

Being back on shore is not a good feeling for Gradely.

"It could be a couple of days," he said. "We want to be part of it, you know what I'm saying? But we need the best safety anybody can get."

Allen will be the one to call off the effort if it gets too dangerous for crews on the water.

Some cleanup work is still ongoing, but it's unclear how many boats will return back to sea on Tuesday.

The 14-day stand-down would be devastating because not only will it allow millions of gallons of oil to flow uncollected into the Gulf, but it'll also cut out 14 days of work for the thousands of fisherman who've signed on to help.


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