From: Verna Gates and Kelli Dugan, Reuters
Published June 3, 2010 05:57 AM

Oil begins hitting Alabama's Dauphin Island

Teams of workers in protective boots and gloves scoured Alabama's Dauphin Island on Wednesday for washed up tar balls and tar patties that have put the 14-mile-long resort in the front line of the state's fight against the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The invading oil debris, heralding the arrival on Alabama's coast of parts of the huge, fragmented oil slick spewing from BP's blown-out undersea well, started coming ashore late on Tuesday on the inhabited barrier beach island.

Dauphin Island residents, who are used to hurricanes roaring out of the Gulf, were waking up to the reality that they would not escape the impact of the six-week-old spill which had so far mostly affected Louisiana to the southwest.

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"It's something we'd rather not have happen, but we all knew the possibility was there, and the island, as a people, are very resilient. We will find a way to work through this process," Dauphin Island Mayor Jeff Collier said.

The tar blobs and patties, which ranged in size from golf balls to the size of a fist, were scattered along the shoreline and could also be seen bobbing in the water. "They're very gooey," Collier said.

He said the island's lifestyle, environment and economy had already been hit, the latter through visitors' cancellations.

The cleanup workers collected the oil debris in plastic bags and shoveled up sand fouled with an oily sheen. Scores of fishing boats contracted to the oil containment effort set out to lay protective boom around the island.

As they watched TV images showing the spilled oil clogging Louisiana wetlands to the southwest, residents had been hoping that winds and currents might keep the crude from their shore. Instead, winds pushed the slick toward Alabama this week.

"It is so depressing. It is really happening. It really won't go away. And the American people really don't know what has hit them," said Caroline Graves, who has a vacation home on the island.

Photo shows dead catfish lie in a tidal pool on Dauphin Island, Alabama June 2, 2010.

Credit: REUTERS/Lee Celano

Article continues: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6516I220100602

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