Most days, the fleet would be skimming oil from the Gulf of Mexico and ferrying workers and supplies. But Hurricane Alex churning in the Gulf turned many people fighting the massive 11-week-old spill into spectators on Tuesday. And they will be for days.
“Yesterday we had redcaps instead of white caps,” said Jesse Alling, a marine science technician with the Coast Guard.
Officials scrambled to reposition boom to protect the coast, and had to remove barges that had been blocking oil from reaching sensitive wetlands. Those operations could soon get a boost. The U.S. accepted offers of help from 12 countries and international organizations. Japan, for instance, was sending two skimmers and boom.
Alex is projected to head for the Texas-Mexico border region and stay far from the spill zone off the Louisiana coast. It is not expected to affect work at the site of the blown-out well. But the storm’s outer edges complicated the cleanup. Waves were as high as 12 feet in parts of the Gulf, according to the National Weather Service.
Early Wednesday Alex had maximum sustained winds near 80 mph (130 kph). The National Hurricane Center said the Category 1 storm is the first June Atlantic hurricane since 1995. It is on track for the Texas-Mexico border region and expected to make landfall Wednesday night.
Skimming efforts off the coasts of Louisiana, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi have mostly stopped.