The rain has finally stopped - at least for a while. Dealing with the oil situation is difficult enough without the dreariness of rain day after day, even more so for those who have been working in rain on the beach the past few days and nights. I was soaked a couple of times after leaving my poncho in my vehicle.
It is heartbreaking to see the beach heavily impacted with tar balls/patties/mousse in areas. I have not been into the Fort Pickens area of Gulf Islands National Seashore since Sunday morning, so I don't know how bad it is there now. Tuesday night between the Margaritaville Hotel and about one mile west, the beach was hard hit.
Statements are being made about the workers on clean-up crews and I would like to add a couple of my own. In the area I was assigned, we were on a 10 to 11 hour shift, starting at 7:00 p.m. and ending between 5:30 - 6:00 a.m. The workers raked and shoveled oil, putting the contaminated mix of oil and sand into bags, tying them off and carrying them to a central area where front loaders come for them later.
Yes, frequent breaks are given to the workers because it is hard work. One group will be given a break while the rest keep raking and shoveling. When the first group's break is over, they switch off.
By 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. there isn't much conversation at all. Everyone is exhausted. Think back to a time when you have spent an afternoon raking and how tired you were afterwards despite the light weight of leaves or grass you were sweeping. Now consider the weight of oil and sand and imagine 10+ hours of being on your feet and repetitive work of raking/shoveling/scooping/bending over to tie bags in the hot sun or a night rain.
When you see tents on the beach where workers appear to just be "sitting around doing nothing", please consider that they may have been on the job for several hours, working hard, and are taking a break while the rest of the crew takes over for them.
I have also seen the faces of workers, after hours cleaning one area of the beach, looking back to see the area re-contaminated by a particularly high wave carrying oil balls and tar patties. Sometimes the oil gets washed to a higher level on the beach. Sometimes the oil is swept farther down the shoreline. I can also testify that oiled areas were not being dozed over by machines in my area, it was the churning wave action which sweeping sand over the oil causing the layering you see in some places.
Thank goodness Hurricane Alex didn't come any closer to us. I'm praying for a north wind to push the oil back offshore and give us a respite.
Please be forgiving of my posts. Unfortunately I'm one of those people who needs a lot of sleep and when I don't get it, I'm a bit more ditzy than usual. I feel much better today since I got ten hours of sleep last night!