Jae C. Hong/AP
A worker leaves the beach as storm clouds approach Sunday in Grand Isle, La. With BP declaring failure in its latest attempt to plug the uncontrolled gusher feeding the worst oil spill in U.S. history, the company is turning to yet another mix of risky undersea robot maneuvers and long-shot odds to keep crude from flowing into the Gulf.
A worker leaves the beach as storm clouds approach Sunday in Grand Isle, La. With BP declaring failure in its latest attempt to plug the uncontrolled gusher feeding the worst oil spill in U.S. history, the company is turning to yet another mix of risky undersea robot maneuvers and long-shot odds to keep crude from flowing into the Gulf. Jae C. Hong/AP
After abandoning efforts to plug a leak spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico, BP is crafting a new plan to capture the oil. But this plan risks making things worse — at least temporarily.
White House energy czar Carol Browner said nothing is likely to stop the leak anytime soon.
"The American people need to know that it is possible we will have oil leaking from this well until August, when the relief wells will be finished," Browner said.
On the Louisiana coast, cleanup crews are settling in for a long stay, and residents are watching it all with a sense of growing dismay.
As oil gushed from a ruptured well a mile below the surface of the ocean Sunday, the sky churned above it.
Strong thunderstorms rolled across the Mississippi River Delta, and Michael Dixon, a lieutenant in charge of oil recovery operations at the Coast Guard's Venice staging area, said the weather shut down cleanup efforts early for the day.
"Weather was pretty severe out at a couple of the field sites. There were water spouts spotted, lot of lightning, and so the crews chose to come in," Dixon said.
The storms also roiled the already complicated oil spill.
"The way that the currents are treating this, and the ongoing leaking of oil, this is basically small spills all over the place. It's a series of a lot of small oil spills. We're fighting on a lot of fronts," he said.
And so, the Coast Guard is digging in.
Workers hired by BP unloaded oil containment boom shipped in from as far away as Britain and Brazil. Last week, BP and the Coast Guard moved the command post into trailers. They're ready to break ground on a permanent headquarters building.
"Because it's clear that this is going to be a long-term operation, they're putting in a full structure to do all of our planning and operations out of over here," Dixon said.
But for all the work happening down in Venice, most people on the Mississippi River Delta feel exposed.
In Buras, La., most of the shrimp boats were idle. Only one was being unloaded — Bruce Richard's.
As he gazed out across the Gulf of Mexico toward the advancing oil, Richard said he just doesn't understand why a wealthy, sophisticated oil company can't plug a hole.
"If I've got a hole in my net, I know what to do: patch it. And I know how to patch it. All right? So what's the problem here? What are you going to do to patch this?" Richard said.
BP is moving to install a new containment device over the ruptured well, one company officials hope will capture at least some of the oil spewing from the well, and allow them to collect it on ships. It's a maneuver that could make matters worse, at least temporarily.
Disheartening as all this news is, it's not enough to keep Louisianans from enjoying something they consider a state treasure — their seafood.
On the last day of the annual Plaquemines Parish Seafood Festival, Patrick Linn was down from New Orleans.
"Initial reaction was we'd better get out here and eat this good seafood while it's still around," he said.
For most, like Steve Cazaubon, the spill is devastating.
"As bad as it is now, it's going to get a lot worse," Cazaubon said. "Even if they're able to stop it in August with the relief wells they're trying to dig ... we'll have at least three times the amount of oil out there that's out there now."
That leaves some people questioning whether there will be a seafood festival there next year.