By Frank James
Oil from the BP Gulf of Mexico gusher hit beaches in Alabama and Mississippi for the first time Tuesday. It's definitely not the kind of news the states wanted to deliver with the start of the summer beach season newly underway.
The news isn't unexpected, given the volume of oil that's been released into the gulf. Still, until now Alabama and Mississippi had been able to tell tourists their beaches were unaffected. It will be harder to make that case with headlines that oil has turned up on their shores.
The Associated Press reported:
DAUPHIN ISLAND, Ala. (AP) - Red-brown oil made its first appearance Tuesday on an Alabama island near the mouth of Mobile Bay, three weeks after tar balls were found there.
Donald Williamson, director of the state Department of Public Health, said patches of oil washed up on Dauphin Island's east end, prompting officials to close some state waters to fishing and post warnings urging beachgoers to stay out of the water.
"It's weathered oil. I don't sense that this is the beginning of a tide of oil but we are going to have to monitor it to see exactly how much more comes in," Williamson said of the oil sighted on the island, a popular tourist destination.
The AP also reported:
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour says oil is hitting the state for the first time.
Barbour said Tuesday that a two-mile long, three-feet wide strand of caramel-colored oil has been found on Petit Bois Island, a barrier island near the Mississippi-Alabama border. The discovery means Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi have all been hit by oil.
Barbour says vessels will be dispatched to clean up the oil.