Estimates of the rate of oil gushing into the gulf have increased, as has the threat to Florida’s coastline.
President Barack Obama announced plans to finally make an spill-related visit to Florida next week. Local officials in the panhandle may be looking to “secede” from the unified command, which just added a post to help defend the peninsula.
Check the math
Scientists appointed by the government to study the spill increased their earlier estimate that 12,000 to 19,000 barrels per day were gushing out. Those numbers are now estimated as high as 50,000. Different teams produced different guesses, with one hewing closer to the earlier numbers and two placing estimates of at least 20,000 barrels a day.
The numbers are all over the place, acknowledged U.S. Geological Survey director Marcia McNutt in a news conference Thursday announcing the findings. Several other teams are preparing their own figures in what has been a protracted and often frustrating effort to get a handle on exactly how much oil is surging from the Macondo reservoir three and a half miles below the surface of the gulf.
Kate Sheppard explains what this means:
Thursday is the 52nd day since the disaster started. If you take the upper estimate, that would mean 109.2 million gallons of oil have spilled into the Gulf—already roughly 10 times more than the Exxon Valdez spill. Even if you used the lower bound, 54 million gallons have poured out—almost five times more than Exxon Valdez.
And it gets worse. These figures are from before the riser leading from the well was cut to put in place the cap that is now funneling a portion of the oil to the surface. Cutting the riser may have increased the flow by 20 percent. The company reports that it’s siphoning 15,000 barrels per day using the cap.
The booms fail
Booms at Perdido Pass could not stop the oil from entering Florida’s precious inland waterways.
The county deployed booms to protect 17 separate individual inlets from bayous and coves where the seagrass is especially sensitive. Perdido Pass is the gateway to the first waterways straddling the Alabama-Florida border.
Travis Griggs of the Pensacola News-Journal takes an aerial view:
The defenses at Perdido Pass looked battered after facing the first waves of oil.
Outside the pass, long sections of orange boom floated in broken and tangled segments. Inside the pass, a patchwork of yellow, orange and blue booms were stretched in rows, radiating from onshore anchors like bicycle spokes. In some places, the booms bowed and stretched as they came broadside to the swift current, which for the moment, was flowing back out to sea.
Nothing but oil: An AP reporter dives the gulf.
“Awash in heartbreak”: The great Florida writer Jeff Klinkenberg captures the tragedy as only he can.
Here come the lawyers: “You may be entitled to compensation.”