Rough Seas Thwart Cleanup of Oil Catastrophe
WASHINGTON (AP) - The oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico has grown tremendously in just a day or so.
The spill - a slick more than 130 miles long and 70 miles wide - threatens hundreds of species of wildlife, including birds, dolphins, and the fish, shrimp, oysters and crabs that make the Gulf Coast one of the nation's most abundant sources of seafood.
Satellite images analyzed by the University of Miami show the spill has expanded from the size of Rhode Island to something closer to the size of Puerto Rico, close to tripling.
Several miles out, the normally blue-green gulf waters were dotted with sticky, pea- to quarter-sized brown beads the consistency of tar. High seas were forecast through Sunday and could push oil deep into the inlets, ponds, creeks and lakes that line the boot of southeastern Louisiana. With the wind blowing from the south, the mess could reach the Mississippi, Alabama and Florida coasts by Monday.
Hans Graber, executive director of the university's Center for Southeastern Tropical Advanced Remote Sensing, said Saturday that the spill is moving faster and expanding much quicker than estimated.
Graber says the size of the slick was about 1,150 square miles on Thursday. By the end of Friday, he says it had tripled to about 3,850 square miles.
How far the spill will reach is unknown, but the sheen already has reached into precious shoreline habitat and remains unstopped and impossible to measure, raising fears that the ruptured well could be pouring more oil into the Gulf than estimated.
The Coast Guard estimates now that at least 1.6 million gallons of oil have spilled since the April 20 explosion that killed 11 workers. The environmental mess could eclipse the Exxon Valdez disaster, when an oil tanker spilled 11 million gallons off Alaska's shores in 1989.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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