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Gulf oil spill: Tropical storm worries cleanup workers

June 26, 2010 | 11:09 am
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Fishermen, deck hands and other workers who signed on to aid oil spill cleanup efforts out of Pensacola Shipyard Marina and Boatyard have yet another worry to deal with -- the possibility of a tropical storm. As they donned life jackets and prepared their vessels at the inlet called Bayou Chico on Saturday morning, captains and crew said they felt helpless to prevent the inevitable damage if the storm washes oil ashore.

“It’s just going to make it worse,” said Scott Shanahan, 39, a captain working as a deck hand with U.S. Fish and Wildlife rescue workers. “There’s not a whole lot we can do about it. Hopefully it won’t push it up into the bayous.”

But Cuh Co, a deck hand and shrimper preparing to lay boom Saturday, said that if the storm comes, he is convinced it will push the oil inland. Captain Robert Rolo, 37, a commercial crabber and oysterman, also feared the worst.

“No matter where it comes, it’s going to stir things up and push all the oil in shore,” he said. “You’re still going to get some wave action either way. I imagine there will be a lot of standby days.”

The father of eight, whose wife helps run the family fishing business, said he is hoping to get paid for those standby days.

Captain Rich Adams, 54, a local scuba diving instructor, listened to storm reports Saturday and worried about what will happen when BP removes the cap and brings the tanker in to safe harbor. Last week, he saw rust-colored ribbons of oil offshore that were 20 yards to 30 yards wide, he said.

“I hate leaving it in the water. We’re seeing marine life killed, and we have no idea what it’s doing to our reefs,” he said.

His son, Rich Adams, 28, who was working as a deck hand, wondered aloud how long it would take the tanker to return and cap the gushing oil if the storm passes.

“It could be disastrous,” his father said.

Tropical Storm Alex formed in the western Caribbean on Saturday, but forecasters were uncertain as to whether it would hit the oil spill, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. 

By early Saturday,  the storm had reached winds of about 45 mph. Computer models show Alex traveling over Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula over the weekend.

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske and Margot Roosevelt

Photo: Mary-Kate Oldham, 6, of Tennessee plays on Pensacola Beach, Fla., as a cleanup crew picks up tar balls. A storm could wash more oil ashore. Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

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