Oil Reaches Shores Of Alabama, Mississippi

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The effects of the oil spill have spread to two new states. On Tuesday, oil washed up on the shores of Alabama and Mississippi, and it's expected to hit the Florida coastline by the end of the week. People there have been dreading the oil's arrival, and now that it's finally hit home, they are angry and frustrated about the inability of anyone to stop it.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

BP is doing risky underwater work today. It's trying to cut through a heavy riser in its latest effort to capture some of the oil that's been gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. So far, the risk has not paid off. Oil has now washed ashore in at least three states, and Florida is likely next.

NPR's Debbie Elliott reports.

DEBBIE ELLIOTT: After weeks of looming offshore, the orangey-brown crude is now fouling beaches and marshes from Louisiana to Alabama. Louisiana has been hardest hit so far but since yesterday, signs of the pollution have shown up on barrier islands in Mississippi and Alabama.

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour says a strand of caramel-colored, emulsified oil came onshore on Petit Bois Island, south of Pascagoula.

Governor HALEY BARBOUR (Republican, Mississippi): It's like two miles long but about a yard wide and not solid, apparently.

ELLIOTT: Barbour says this is the first significant amount of oil to hit Mississippi, and warns it won't be the last. He's calling for stronger offshore defenses to prevent oil from reaching the coast.

Gov. BARBOUR: This, hopefully, was a wakeup call for us.

ELLIOTT: It's increasingly clear that there's no stopping what's coming. The oil on Petit Bois came up from under the surface, so it wasn't detected by overflights. Patches of oil have also hit Dauphin Island, Alabama, south of Mobile.

Further east in Orange Beach, near the Florida border, tar balls have washed ashore, and streams of oil are just about six miles out in the gulf. It's coming at the worst possible time: the start of the summer tourist season.

At a town hall meeting today in the city gym, local officials pressed BP for a commitment to pay local businesses who have been hurt by the oil spill. Former BP CFO Paul Bashem(ph) was booed when he dodged the direct request.

Mr. PAUL BASHEM (Former Chief Financial Officer, British Petroleum): I'll certainly give a commitment that I will work hard to achieve each of your complaints.

(Soundbite of booing)

ELLIOTT: Restaurant owner Regina Shipp says she's been through four adjusters since filing a claim for a $10,000 loss at the end of April.

Ms. REGINA SHIPP (Owner, Shipp's Harbour Grill): They're not doing what they say. President Obama is getting on TV saying: We will make BP pay you. President Obama, they're not paying.

ELLIOTT: She worries how businesses will stay afloat here.

Ms. SHIPP: You know, Orange Beach is a tourist town. You know, we - my husband and I moved our family here because it's a tourist town and we're restaurant tourism, and that's where you make your money off tourists. If the tourists die, the town dies. It will be a ghost town.

ELLIOTT: Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon says the town knows how to handle a natural disaster - but not this.

Mayor TONY KENNON (Orange Beach, Alabama): This, unfortunately, is just a black cloud that's just hovering, and we all feel helpless in that we just don't feel like we have any ability to effect the change or be part of ending this. It's a very frustrating feeling.

ELLIOTT: It's a frustration that's spreading with the oil along the Gulf Coast.

Debbie Elliott, NPR News, Orange Beach, Alabama.

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