• 48°

Devastation on coast, again

An expert yesterday put the oil spill currently contaminating the Gulf of Mexico in terms we can understand.

“This has got all the characteristics of a Category 5 hurricane,” LSU professor Ed Overton, who heads a federal chemical hazard assessment team for oil spills, said this week.

And a month before hurricane season begins, Overton seems to think a big storm would help by dispersing and diluting the worst of the oil.

“A hurricane is Mother Nature’s vacuum cleaner,” Overton said.

Normally it cleans things up. But that’s not a solution with a continuing spill, and a confidential report leaked Friday said this well has a potential to become a major gusher for months.

Just like in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the federal government has been slow to respond to the event that has the potential to wreck tourism and seafood industries along the Gulf Coast and cause major environmental problems. Experts say if the federal government had moved in to help last week, it is possible the problem could have been contained.

At this point, we can only hope that President Obama learned from the mistakes of his predecessor and gives a single capable person command of the response.

Meanwhile, as we anxiously watch the Gulf – just like in hurricane season – there are a few things we can do to help.

The Mobile Press Register reported yesterday that people interested in volunteering in Alabama can call the Alabama Coastal Foundation at 251-990-6002; the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program at 251-431-6409; or Mobile Baykeeper at 251-433-4229.

Farther east, The Pensacola News Journal reported, the Perdido Key Area Chamber of Commerce in Perdido Key is encouraging those would like to volunteer to help with plans in cleaning up of the oil spill in the event it reaches Florida. The group will meet today, Sat., May 1. Volunteers are asked to call the Perdido Key Visitors Center at 492-4660 to add your name to the local volunteer list.