Hurricane Alex Hinders Gulf Cleanup Crews Strong winds from Hurricane Alex are whipping up waves in the Gulf of Mexico and sending more oil toward the shoreline. In Port Fourchon, La., crews say they recently finished cleaning up a beach only to have it dirtied again by more oil.
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Hurricane Alex Hinders Gulf Cleanup Crews

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Hurricane Alex Hinders Gulf Cleanup Crews

Hurricane Alex Hinders Gulf Cleanup Crews

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To bolster cleanup efforts in the Gulf, the U.S. has accepted help from a dozen nations and international groups, according to the State Department. That includes two high-speed skimmers that are on the way from Japan. Those already working in the Gulf are facing a new problem, though, by the name of Hurricane Alex. It's not headed for Louisiana, but the choppy waters have forced the Coast Guard to dock skimmers and other boats. That means more oil is reaching shores that had been mostly cleaned.

NPR's Jeff Brady spent yesterday with crews on the beach in Port Fourchon, Louisiana.

JEFF BRADY: Crews along this beach are very busy filling plastic bags with sand and rocks covered with reddish-brown oil. Workers only have to look out at the menacing waves to know why the crude is washing up now.

Ensign CAMERON COOPER (U.S. Coast Guard): The waves are 10 to 15 feet high when they break and not somewhere where you'd want to be swimming right now.

BRADY: U.S. Coast Guard Ensign Cameron Cooper says normally the water here is calm, waves are only a foot or so high, but the storm has changed everything. It had been more than two weeks since any oil had washed up on this beach. The crews were just finishing when the storm started moving their way.

Ensign COOPER: Unfortunately, the timing of it wasn't ideal, because the oil was right at our doorstep right when all these waves came too. So those two factors together make it a mess right now.

BRADY: Nearby, Jerome Benjamin of New Orleans is slipping into a yellow hazardous material suit. He's among the temporary workers hired to clean up these beaches.

Mr. JEROME BENJAMIN: It's heavy stuff, you know, we're just cleaning up. It's not just oil. You know, but as quick as we get it up, quick as it come.

BRADY: It sounds kind of frustrating, the idea of, like, you just clean it up and then more oil comes in.

Mr. BENJAMIN: No, not really, because that means the more oil come in, the longer we stay out here - more work.

BRADY: Were you looking for work when this came along?

Mr. BENJAMIN: Yes, I was. Yes. It is a blessing.

BRADY: It doesn't take long for workers to fill up another dumpster with oil-trashed sand and rocks.

Ensign Cameron Cooper predicts it'll take another week just to clean up all the damage caused in the last couple of days.

Ensign COOPER: Eventually we'll win and we'll have our beach back.

BRADY: But there's no guarantee the beach will stay clean. There are still millions of gallons of oil out there floating around, and no one yet knows where it'll all end up.

Jeff Brady, NPR News, Port Fourchon, Louisiana.

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