Dauphin Island is the scene for the onslaught of oil making its way to shore. The pristine beaches of the barrier island off of the Alabama coast, just south of Mississippi, have had reports of oil wreaking havoc on the scenery. This is the first significant oil to start making its way to shore outside of Louisiana, and with weather changing direction, more is predicted to follow.
Dauphin Island closed as officials warn swimmers
On June 1, as oil began washing on shore in larger quantities, local officials took steps to place warning signs and to notify vacationers in the area of the oil. Along with the swimming advisories, the Alabama Department of Public Health, in a news release, has also stated that all oyster beds in Alabama are closed as of 3 p.m.
The release goes on to state that an increase in hydrocarbons have been noted in the water, as well as visible surface oil on the surface, approximately three miles off shore. The warning comes three weeks after the first tar balls began showing up, and the additional oil, as it comes to the coast, could present additional dangers due to exposure to hydrocarbons.
Oil presents hazards on and under the surface
Arny Blanchard, Research Assistant Professor , at the Institute of Marine Science at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, had said in an email interview that the presence of tar balls three weeks ago were indicative of possible fresh hydrocarbons on the shore. Due to the freshness of the oil coming to shore, there could be some of the more volatile hydrocarbons present, known aromatic hydrocarbons.
While not aromatic hydrocarbons may not be initially present, they do present a pathway for the toxins to reach the coast shores. Petit Bois Island, MS, also started to take oil, as further proof that the oil slick had finally made its way to the Gulf Coast.
Weather expected to increase amount of oil making landfall
NOAA released a 72 hour forecast for the oil slick on June 1 that shows light oiling beginning to reach the barrier islands following a weather shift in the area. According to the forecast, oil could make its appearance, on the surface, from Biloxi, MS, to Pensacola, Florida.
Tourism impact likely to be high
As schools reach the end of their year, family vacations will be on the rise, and a significant impact is expected as oiled beaches start to run their course. The closure of the western half of Dauphin Island serves as a precursor to the coming problems that the oil slick will present. Some of the coast’s most popular beach destination fall in the area that will impacted by the slick, bringing more people in direct contact with the off-shore disaster.
Public outcry is expected to increase, and as it comes more into the public focus, additional pressure is likely to be exerted on governments to take action. As Mississippi, and other coast states, finish their primary elections, expect rhetoric to become more heated and pointed towards BP as politicians scramble to be seen as having the best interests of their constituents in mind.