‘Tyranny of depth, distance’

By ANITA LEE and GEOFF PENDER – Sun Herald

BILOXI — Adm. Thad Allen, commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, stood Friday afternoon on the Biloxi waterfront and said the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is not yet a catastrophe, but the federal government is preparing for one.

He said it appears the spill is separating, so hopefully no one area in the Gulf would get flooded by a huge slick if winds take it inland.

But he said the government must be prepared, given criticism and media scrutiny about underestimates of how much oil was gushing from the blown-open well.

“Don’t expect anybody to say anything less than this is potentially catastrophic and we have to plan for that. If we did anything other than that, and the thing went south, you’d be wondering why we weren’t planning for the catastrophic event.”

On Friday night BP was attempting to insert a tube into the broken, leaking riser in hopes of capturing the bulk of the spill. BP and Coast Guard officials said they hoped to have this operating overnight, and that they would know within the next day or two if it will work.

Allen, who held a news conference as he toured the coastline, said the spill’s character has changed since the oil rig sank April 22 after an explosion and fire.

“I don’t think we’re dealing with a large, monolithic slick anymore,” he said. Shifts in the wind have separated the oil and sent it in different directions. Crews have removed as much as possible through controlled burning, chemical dispersants and mechanical skimming.

“We have a very large perimeter around concentrations of oil, with a very large amount of water in between, where you won’t see anything,” he said. “The bad news is, that’s a very large perimeter. The good news is, it’s in smaller quantities, so when it does come ashore you’re not dealing with a very, very large slick.”

Strategic deployment
Read more: http://www.sunherald.com/2010/05/14/2182912/tyranny-of-depth-distance.html#ixzz0o0Mc7pxX

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