- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 8, 2010

NEW ORLEANS — Oil from the BP spill is slathering some areas in a tarry mess while leaving others unscathed, even as a device collects more and more crude gushing from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.

The recently installed containment cap on the stricken BP wellhead is helping to limit the leak, collecting more than 620,000 gallons of oil Monday, Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said Tuesday in Washington. Authorities had reported that around 460,000 gallons were collected Sunday.

It is not clear, though, how much oil is still escaping, and underwater video feeds continue to show a dark geyser. BP announced plans recently to swap out the current cap with a bigger one next month that can capture more oil.

“I have never said this is going well,” said Adm. Allen, who’s monitoring the response effort for the government. “We’re throwing everything at it that we’ve got. I’ve said time and time again that nothing good happens when oil is on the water.”

Officials have said that initial cleanup of the BP spill could take months and that the spill’s effects could linger for years.

Tests have confirmed plumes of oil in low concentrations as far as 3,300 feet below the surface more than 40 miles northeast of the well site, NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco said Tuesday.

And as the surface oil patches dance unpredictably from coastline to coastline, residents who depend on tourism and fishing are wondering how to head off the damage or salvage a season that’s nearing its peak.

At the Salty Dog Surf Shop in Panama City Beach, near the eastern end of the spill area, manager Glen Thaxton hawked T-shirts, flip-flops and sunglasses with usual briskness Monday, even as officials there warned oil could appear on the sand within 72 hours.

“It could come to a screeching halt real quick,” Mr. Thaxton said. “So we’ve been calling vendors and telling them don’t ship anything else until further notice.”

Adm. Allen said Tuesday that he will meet with BP to assess how well it is handling claims for relief from people hurt by the spill. The aim is “to see if we need to provide any oversight,” he said, noting that “working claims is not something that’s part of BP’s organizational competence here.”

In Mississippi, Gov. Haley Barbour over the weekend angrily blasted news coverage that he said was scaring away tourists at the start of the busy summer season by making it seem as if “the whole coast from Florida to Texas is ankle-deep in oil.”

Mississippi, he insisted on “Fox News Sunday,” was clean.

That sounded about right to Darlene Kimball, who runs Kimball Seafood on the docks at Pass Christian.

“Mississippi waters are open, and we’re catching shrimp,” Ms. Kimball said. Still, her business is hurting because of a perception that Gulf seafood isn’t safe, she said, and because many shrimpers have signed up to help corral the spill elsewhere.

The random, scattered nature of the oil was evident this week near the Alabama-Florida state line. On the Alabama side on Monday, oil-laden seaweed littered beaches for miles, and huge orange globs stained the sands.

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