Temperatures should moderate slightly today and wind and water conditions will be much the same as yesterday: a light breeze and relatively calm waters. Except for moderately increased cloud conditions and a continuing Southwest-to-Northeast very light breeze, these are very nearly ideal conditions for any community facing an aggressive oil slick.
2. Oil in Pensacola Bay.
Yesterday afternoon, Southwest winds (bad) remained light (good). A very light chop (good) caused only small, scattered whitecaps (bad). Short of absolutely dead-still conditions, that's about as good as it gets this time of year in Pensacola.
Nevertheless, a large oil slick breached the orange booms at the head of Pensacola Pass, slipped past skimmers, divided at the western edge of the Gulf Breeze peninsula and now is sloshing around Pensacola Bay and Santa Rosa Sound.
Oil sheens were spotted as far inshore as the Bob Sikes Bridge on Santa Rosa Sound. Scattered clusters of tar balls, red weathered crude and mousse were observed across much of Pensacola Bay as well as inside Little Sabine Bay. Oil seeped into the grass beds in and around Lafitte Cove, where Pensacola Beach's Peg Leg Pete's restaurant is located.3. What's Lies Beneath Mobile Bay?
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During a ride aboard a Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission boat Monday afternoon, [Pensacola News Journal] reporters saw a 100-yard-long swath of quarter-sized brown tar balls floating more than a mile inside of Pensacola Pass.
In Mobile Bay, Ben Raines reports, the Mobile Press-Register on its own used depth finders to locate "dozens of places with... unusual readings at depths ranging from 10 feet to nearly 50 feet at the bottom of the ship channel."
In some cases, the anomalous readings began just below the surface and continued down to depths of 20 feet or more. In other cases, depth finders showed what appeared to be a layer of material floating above the seafloor, separated from the bottom by about 4 feet of water.Divers descending to twenty feet below the surface found "nothing but murky water." No fish, no visible oil, no vegetation. Dauphin Island sea Lab's George Crozier "said that he was intrigued by the unusual readings."
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The areas yielding the unusual readings appeared to have defined edges. Moving away from the areas caused the depth finder image to return to normal. In some cases, areas with the abnormal readings were perhaps 20 feet across. In other cases, they were 100 yards or more across.
He told the newspaper, "I don't know if that is oil down there. We'll send the boats out and try and get some samples taken."
4. Obama in Pensacola.
Well, we blew it with our beach hotel prediction. President Obama didn't take our advice and enjoy a night on Pensacola Beach. Instead, he checked into the Crowne Plaza Grand Hotel on the mainland.
That's the hotel that hides a charming nineteenth century railroad depot beneath its ample skirts, so visitors won't know it's there. The best view the Crowne Plaza offers guests, we would imagine, is a stunning look right in your face of Pensacola's hideous all-cement Convention Center. Just beyond that is St. Michael's Cemetery.
As the late Willie Junior once said, only in Pensacola would you see politicians building a convention center next door to a bunch of dead bodies. Willie may have been guilty as charged, but he was a funny man.
Staying at the Grand is so conventional. No change we can believe in. Visiting dignitaries, business tycoons, books authors on tour, and politicians always wind up there.
Some years ago a good friend of ours came through Pensacola. His publisher put him up at what was then known, simply, as the Grand Hotel. After the obligatory semi-formal author's dinner, we rescued him from all the hangers-on who wanted autographs and brought him out to the beach.
There, he spent the night amiably chatting with half a dozen of our friends in the locally famous driveway of our next door beach neighbor, Jamo Pihakis. Jamo, some people claim, lives in his garage.
However that may be, friends from all over the island drop by his place nightly to engage in that nearly extinct, pre-television custom known as "neighborly conversation." It's one of the most enjoyable charms of beach life. And, it's free! Later, our friend said it was one of the most enjoyable nights he'd ever spent on book tour.
Heck, if we'd known President Obama preferred cement, we're sure Jamo would have offered to bed him down in the driveway.
5. Cement Job.
Speaking of cement, New Orleans Times-Picayne's Rebecca Mowbray Monday had a superb article yesterday summarizing the similarities and differences between BP's oil well disaster on April 20 and the "blowout of Australia's Montara well" in August, 2009.
The Australian oil spill was in shallow water and it wasn't attributable to failure of blowout preventer (because there wasn't one). But, Mowbray writes, "what they do have in common is problems with the cementing job on the well, an oil release and missteps in shutting down the well and dealing with the oil."
Note to readers: We'll try to update the blog later today, after the president leaves our oil-stained beach.
minor edit 6-15am