Weather a concern as oil spill cleanup efforts continue

Wednesday's forecast calls for rain, choppy waters

TEXAS CITY, Texas - The weather is a concern for cleanup crews in the Galveston Bay as they are expected to deal with choppy waters and rain while they continue removing thousands of gallons of oil from the water.

Weather conditions have already pushed the oil 12 miles and into the Gulf of Mexico.

With Wednesday's forecast, officials at the Unified Command Center believe some of the oil could make it to the Matagorda Bay shoreline, prompting the deployment of more resources to that area. Equipment and personnel are currently pre-staging in Port O'Connor to prepare for the impact. 

In four days, the oil spill has already impacted nearly 19 miles of shoreline and more than 175,000 gallons of oily water have been recovered.

The response consists of more than 1,200 personnel, including 940 who are out in the field trying to recover oil before a storm expected later Wednesday. 

"With the increasing winds and the precipitation deteriorating weather conditions, that could push oil in other places and we're going to have to reassess afterwards," said Lt. Sam Danus with the U.S. Coast Guard. 

Overnight, Galveston County public health officials issued an alert reminding and recommending that the public not touch or have any direct contact with the oil or oily waters.

In Surfside Beach, Brazoria County, residents closely watch the beach. Every eight hours, workers check the coast to make sure there is no sign of oil washing up on the beach. So far, no oil.

On Wednesday, high winds and big waves left the mayor looking out to the sea to see if anything came ashore.

Mayor Larry Davison said, "This southeast wind, could change it. Could push it in. Wait and see. Wait for the experts to tell us when and we will tell them if they are right or not."

The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) says seafood in the marketplace has not been affected by the spill. However, the department recommends that seafood from contaminated waters not be consumed.

Officials say 30 birds have died as a result of the spill, and 11 are being rehabilitated. Members of the public who spot affected wildlife are asked to call 1-888-384-2000 and refrain from capturing the animals themselves.

Safety is something crews also have to keep in mind as they continue their cleanup efforts of this very significant oil spill.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Coast Guard partially reopened the Houston Ship Channel to priority commercial traffic, but it could take another a couple of days before traffic in the channel returns to normal.

The Unified Command released an updated map showing the areas boaters should avoid. The command said 1,200 workers are trying to clean up the 19 miles of coastline affected by the oil.  It said 31 birds had died. Stormy weather late Wednesday could threaten the cleanup. 

Those who live, work and play along the coastline know how important clean water is to the area.

Mike Carlson of Extreme Marine Service said, "That's all this island...the mainstay is tourism. They get fishing charters, beach access, all of that stuff. That's how this island makes its living."

A lot of businesses are hoping that things will return to normal very soon.

Royal Caribbean says its Navigator of the Seas will finally be able to leave Wednesday after it was postponed because of this spill.

Two Carnival cruise lines originally scheduled to leave Sunday had to shorten their trips after the spill delayed their voyages.

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