MISSISSIPPI GULF COAST — The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico could reach the Mississippi coastline as early as tomorrow, and crude has already made landfall in Louisiana.
Gov. Haley Barbour said that numerous state and federal agencies are working together in the effort to repel residue from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill away from the Mississippi Gulf Coast and to clean areas that might be contacted by the spill.
“While we continue to hope that BP, its contractors and the federal departments that make up the unified command will succeed in shutting off the leaks and preventing any landfall by oil, we are preparing for the worst,” Barbour said. “The state’s effort is being led by the Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Marine Resources. They’re working closely with the private company, its contractors and the federal government, including the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard, to block oil residue from coming ashore and to clean up any that does.”
DEQ and DMR are coordinating with contractors to place collection booms along environmentally sensitive areas, and water, sediment and fishery samples are being taken. These agencies also have been performing flyovers to document the conditions of the Mississippi Sound and adjacent state and federal waters.
The DMR, DEQ and the U.S. Coast Guard are jointly on 24-hour watch to monitor the situation.
“We’re advised by the federal government there is a possibility that the leading edge of the oil sheen could make landfall in Mississippi as early as Saturday,” Barbour said. “We continue to monitor the situation on a real-time basis.”
Commercial fishermen in Mississippi are seeing the first signs of impact. The DMR is advising crab fishermen with crab traps in the Mississippi Sound to consider the temporary removal of traps from those waters. This precautionary advisory is a result of concerns of possible interference with potential oil spill abatement activities.
In Louisiana, oil is already coming ashore, and a state of emergency has been declared. Crews in boats were patrolling coastal marshes early this morning, looking for areas where the oil has flowed in, the Coast Guard said.
The leak from a blown-out well a mile underwater is five times bigger than first believed. Faint fingers of oily sheen were reaching the Mississippi River delta late yesterday, lapping the Louisiana shoreline in long, thin lines. Thicker oil was about five miles offshore. Officials have said they would do everything to keep the Mississippi River open to traffic.
The oil slick could become the nation’s worst environmental disaster in decades, threatening to eclipse even the Exxon Valdez in scope. It imperils hundreds of species of fish, birds and other wildlife along the Gulf Coast, one of the world’s richest seafood grounds, teeming with shrimp, oysters and other marine life.
“It is of grave concern,” David Kennedy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told The Associated Press about the spill. “I am frightened. This is a very, very big thing. And the efforts that are going to be required to do anything about it, especially if it continues on, are just mind-boggling.”
As the oil floated in, the National Weather Service warned of high tides and coastal flooding in the threatened area because of strong winds from the south. Tides could run 2 to 3 feet higher than usual from Friday through Sunday.