tagged w/ PENSACOLA BEACH
A worker uses a shovel to remove an oil glob from the beach Thursday, July 1, in Biloxi, Mississippi.GETTY IMAGES
A worker uses a shovel to remove an oil glob from the beach Thursday,... more
Oil outrage on Pensacola Beach
By Kim Segal and John Zarrella, CNN
July 2, 2010 7:12 p.m. EDT
This story started on Oprah CNN iReport
Pensacola, Florida (CNN) -- The beaches in Pensacola, Florida, are known for their soft, sugar-white sand. On a sunny day, the contrast of the pure white beach with the blue of the water is postcard perfect. But the scene has changed since the Gulf oil disaster.
"This sand has been stained, it's that brown gritty looking stain on there, I don't know if we'll ever get it out," says Larry Johnson, a Pensacola city councilman. There is no mistaking the anger in Johnson's voice. It is an anger and frustration that is shared by many in this beachside town.
Anger has turned residents Gregg Hall and Diana Stephens into activists. At least twice a day Hall and Stephens document what is happening on their beach, posting photographs and videos on several websites, including CNN's iReport.com.
Hall likes to show the oil in the water by dipping his uncovered hand in the Gulf of Mexico. "The stuff gets all over your hands, all over your body, it's really hard to get off and it's everywhere," says Hall. He says the demonstration is an effective way to show people the severity of the problem, echoed by the county health department's warning to stay out of the water.
Cleaning crews have been hired to walk the beach and pick up tar balls and tar patties. Heavy machinery is also being used, but the surf is washing the oil and tar ashore faster than it can be picked up.
"It's kinda like cleaning this beach with a toothpick. It's an impossible task," says Stephens.
During Johnson's beach visit, the cleanup crews are hard to spot as they work the other end of the beach. "I think we need more crews out here cleaning up," says Johnson. "If they don't pick this stuff up when it's out here and the tide comes in and ends up burying it."
Weather conditions caused by Hurricane Alex made things worse. The stronger winds and higher tidal surge spread the oil farther up the shoreline while the rain delayed the manual cleanup process. Almost anywhere you dig, tar and brown streaks from the oil can be found inches below the sand's surface.
The oil could not have arrived at a worse time for the city.
The two biggest weekends of the year, Fourth of July and the Blue Angels naval aviators air show, are this weekend and next.
"We've lost this summer. The summer of 2010 is gone for Pensacola Beach, the way I see it," Johnson says. "I just hope we don't lose next summer, so BP needs to get on it and deal with this oil now so we maybe we can save the summer of 2011."Oil outrage on Pensacola Beach
By Kim Segal and John Zarrella, CNN
July 2, 2010... more
Oil on Pensacola beach...
PHOTO: Kevin Reed’s dad taught him to swim at Pensacola Beach. It’s here that he taught his own son. “This will never be the same,” he says.
PENSACOLA BEACH, FLORIDA
The tide came in Tuesday night, under a moon almost full, and when the sun came up and the water retreated there it was: a broken band of oil about 5 feet wide and 8 miles long.
It looked like tobacco spit and smelled foreign, and it pooled in yesterday's footprints as far as you could see. State officials called it the worst show of crude on shore from the gusher 120 miles away.
As word spread, the people of Pensacola Beach walked to the black band to take a look, to take photographs, to be sure this wasn't some apocalyptic dream. They poured over the dunes all day, on pilgrimages to bear witness.
Here came Courtney Laczko, 16, who has been coming to the beach almost every morning since school let out because she knew the days were numbered
"It's actually really here," she kept saying.
She thought about the dolphins and how she used to pretend they were a happy little family. She thought about the time her mom wasn't working and she took the kids to the beach every day.
"It was always the prettiest beach around here. You can't say that anymore."
Here came Kathy Allen, 15, a native. She thought about that night in November, after the homecoming dance, when a boy named Dakota leaned in and kissed her lips, her first ever, and how the stars seemed so bright and sparkly.
Here came Stef Ackerman, 22, who learned to fish here and surf here. He walked to the oil and squatted and ran his finger up under his sunglasses. He thought about all those journeys to the beach with his dad to watch the Blue Angels zing down the shoreline and about that fishing trip when his older brother came home from war. How they talked and fished all day.
This? He doesn't know how to process it.
"I don't know what to do," he said. "I don't know if anybody knows what to do."
Four buses of cleanup men showed up. Bulldozers rolled onto the white sand. Men with shovels scooped black onto plastic sheets and fed them to the dozers.
Gov. Charlie Crist came, too, with his people, to the same beach where a week ago he walked and talked with President Barack Obama. He was expecting scattered tar balls, not this.
"It's pretty ugly," he said.
"It's worse than I expected," said Mike Sole, secretary of Florida's Department of Environmental Protection.
"What do we do now?" asked Morgan White, 15, who has a scar on her hip from skimboarding on this water. "This is what we do. We wake up and we come here."
Up the road, a sign flashed: OIL ON BEACH. The bulldozers beeped. News crews gathered.
If the beach is church, Wednesday felt like a funeral.
Kevin Reed, 36, who learned to swim here and taught his own son, right here, how to swim, walked to the oil and cried.
"I can't help it," he said. "This just kills me. It feels like somebody just ripped my heart out. I knew it was going to be bad. I didn't know it was going to be like this."
He looked back at the band. He noticed there were no birds.
"It's damn near biblical."
http://www.tampabay.com/news/environment/article1104604.ecePHOTO: Kevin Reed’s dad taught him to swim at Pensacola Beach. It’s here... more