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Hurricane season bears down on BP Gulf oil spill

The season’s first tropical weather system is disrupting cleanup efforts and has raised the anxiety level along the Gulf Coast. Where's the emergency storm plan, some officials are asking?

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“They need to be down here not just for a sound bite, but stay here until this job is finished,” he said.

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As the Fourth of July holiday weekend approaches, communities across the Gulf Coast that should be enjoying the height of their summer season are instead bracing for incoming oil, including areas that have been previously unaffected by the spill.

On Tuesday, heavy oil washed into unspoiled mashes in St. Bernard and Jefferson parishes. In Alabama, long lines of heavy crude and tar balls came ashore on white beaches. In Mississippi, beaches near Biloxi were closed to swimming and fishing for the first time due to the oil. Skimmers, barges, and other boats involved with the oil cleanup were forced into port, and hundreds of miles of protective boom were rendered mostly useless.

Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the federal official overseeing the government’s spill response, said Alex was not expected to affect relief well drilling operations in the Gulf, the collection of surface oil at the spill site, or BP’s effort to install a new oil-capturing system at the well site that will be easier to break down and set up again in the event of a storm evacuation.

The current system would take five days to disconnect, while the new system, which employs a flexible hose, would take two days.

Where's the emergency storm plan?

Last week, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal criticized BP for not yet finalizing its storm emergency plan.

The governor has pressed the oil company for more specifics on when they will order the evacuation of personnel and equipment in the face of a storm, and designating evacuation stationing areas.

BP did not return a call for comment, but Allen reported last week that the Coast Guard was working with BP on an evacuation plan, which would be implemented five days before the advent of gale force winds at the well site.

Meanwhile, the two month-old oil spill disaster continues to affect communities across the region.

In Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes, Feed the Children – a relief charity that also works in Africa and Latin American – is distributing food to the families of out of work fishermen.

“We had Katrina and then Gustav and then the oil spill – and now with that another hurricane season,” said Ngoc Nguyen, a shrimper who worked out of Buras, Louisiana, before the spill. “What can you do? I just want to go shrimping again.”

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