Cela Scott, of Los Angeles, takes cell phone photos of oil washed ashore on Pensacola Beach, Wed. June 23, 2010. (AP Photo/Michael Spooneybarger.)
Written by Gregory Patin for the Orlando Independent Examiner
The oily nightmare in the Gulf of Mexico has become reality for Pensacola Beach residents. Residents and tourists awoke there yesterday morning to the stench of hydrocarbons, thick pools of oil washing ashore, yellow tape 75 yards back from the water and no-swimming signs along with beach health advisories. According to the AP via ABC News’ local affiliate in Pensacola Beach, “Government officials closed about a quarter-mile section of Casino Beach on Thursday…because heavy equipment is being brought in to clean up the mess.”
CNN reports that “more than nine miles of white shoreline and beaches were soaked with syrupy oil…and a health advisory has been issued by Escambia County for parts of Pensacola Beach and Fort Pickens.” According to a CNN iReport, “this morning was the worst I have seen, the most gut wrenching and heart breaking walk on the beach in my entire life. You can’t walk a step without stepping in tar balls…it’s as far as the eye can see.”
Christy Travis, 41, a visitor from Arkansas, was walking the oil-splotched beach at Fort Pickens when she saw a baby bottlenose dolphin in distress after beaching itself on a sandbar. Once the dolphin was discovered, a three hour ordeal ensued to try and save the mammal in the water. Two U.S. Coast Guard volunteers and a Florida Department of Environmental Protection officer were involved in the rescue attempt. Travis said the dolphin was crying as people rushed to save it. She said people scraped oil off the dolphin with their hands. It was heartbreaking. Everyone was crying…we had oil all over us. It was so sad. It just broke our hearts.
The dolphin did not survive. It died while en route to Gulf World Marine Park, a rescue facility in Panama City. WPLG Miami reported that a necropsy will be performed to determine exact cause of death, according to Courtnee Ferguson of the BP Unified Command Joint Information Center in Mobile.
Oil also washed up on nearby Perdido Key, where workers cleaned up 8 tons of tar balls. Offshore, several shrimp boat skimmers could be seen fairly close to shore, near the Pier at Casino Beach.
In order to continue the fight against oil, Florida’s Gulf counties say they need money, and they say BP is not returning phone calls. County representatives are meeting Wednesday with the U.S. Coast Guard and BP to make sure the checks get in the mail.
Dee Pittman, 57, of Pensacola, who was among the people gathered at Fort Pickens, expressed the reverence that residents have for their once-pristine beaches: You cant get close to the water. Its (oil) just coming in. This is very dangerous. BP doesnt get it. This is sacred ground to us. We got married on these shores. We baptized our children in this ocean. We entrust the ashes of our loved ones in this ocean. While Dee’s words are moving, images in the following videos also paint of vivid picture of the destruction of the Pensacola Beach shores. Here is some rare aerial footage from an Escambia County Sheriff’s helicopter over what is now a no-fly zone. Note how many people are still on the beaches and how few clean-up workers can be seen (only short intervals of audio): See second youtube: next post-LTS