Gulf Coast watches, waits for oil

GRAND ISLE, La. —People along the Gulf Coast have spent weeks living with uncertainty, wondering where and when a huge slick of oil might come ashore, ruining their beaches — and their livelihoods.

The anxiety is so acute that some are seeing and smelling oil where there is none. And even though the dead turtles and jellyfish washing ashore along the Gulf of Mexico are clean, and scientists have yet to determine what killed them, many are just sure the flow of crude unleashed by the explosion at BP's Deepwater Horizon is the culprit.

Calm seas Tuesday helped cleanup crews working to fight the oil gushing from the well a mile below the surface, allowing them to put out more containment equipment and repair some booms damaged in rough weather over the weekend. They also hoped to again try to burn some of the oil on the water's surface, possibly today.

The Marine Spill Response Corp. had five, 210-foot vessels designed for oil skimming operating offshore Tuesday. Three more were at sea preparing to lower their equipment so they could suck up oil as well.

A Coast Guard official said forecasts showed the oil wasn't expected to come ashore until at least Thursday.

"It's a gift of a little bit of time. I'm not resting," U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry said.

Near Port Fourchon, southwest of New Orleans, workers for contractor Wild Well Control were busy welding and painting a massive containment device. BP spokesman John Curry said it would be deployed on the seabed by Thursday.

That wasn't much comfort to the hotel owners, fishing boat captains and others who rely on the ocean to make a living.

"The waiting is the hardest part. The not knowing," said Dodie Vegas, 44, who runs the Bridge Side Cabins complex in Grand Isle, a resort and recreational fishing community that's just about as far south in Louisiana as you can go. So far, two fishing rodeos have been canceled, and 10 guests have canceled their rooms.

The Deepwater Horizon exploded April 20, killing 11 workers and sending hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil a day gushing into the Gulf. While a rainbow sheen of oil has reached land in parts of Louisiana, the gooey rafts of coagulated crude have yet to come ashore in most places.