Space porn: These images are (quite literally) out of this world
BP and the Coast Guard sent oil-scooping skimming ships in the Gulf of Mexico back to shore Tuesday because nasty weather from Tropical Storm Alex churned up rough seas and powerful winds.
U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Dave French said all efforts had been halted for now off the Louisiana coast. Efforts also had been halted off the coasts of Florida, Alabama and Louisiana.
French said workers were using the time off the water to replenish supplies and perform maintenance work on equipment.
“We’re ready to go as soon as conditions allow us to get those people back out and fighting this oil spill,” French said.
The loss of skimming work combined with 25 mph gusts driving water into the coast has left beaches especially vulnerable. In Alabama, the normally white beaches were streaked with long lines of oil, and tar balls collected on the sand. One swath of beach 40 feet wide was stained brown and mottled with globs of oil matted together.
Although Tropical Storm Alex was projected to stay well away from the spill zone before possibly making landfall as a hurricane over Mexico, its outer edges were causing problems out in the Gulf.
Wayne Hebert, who helps manage skimming operations for BP, said all nearshore skimmers were idled off the coasts of Florida, Alabama and Mississippi.
“Everyone is in because of weather, whether it’s thunderstorms or (high) seas,” Hebert said.
Waves were as high as 12 feet Tuesday in some parts of the Gulf.
The surging waves and nasty weather make skimming work unsafe and ineffective, and also can mangle oil-soaking boom.
The Coast Guard had to evacuate workers and equipment from coastal areas in Terrebonne Parish because of tidal surges that could cause flooding, French said.
The only vessels left in the water are being used to capture or burn oil and gas leaking from the well and to drill relief wells that officials say are the best hope for stopping the leak for good.
Ten boats that had been removing oil from the coast of Alabama sought shelter in the protected waters of Mobile Bay or Perdido Bay, and a flotilla of vessels that had been trying to prevent oil from entering the pass into Perdido Bay were gone. In Mississippi, four skimmers were riding out the storm beside Petit Bois Island, Hebert said.
Cleanup crews fought the winds and showers with empty bags blowing across the sand occasionally and the tops of canvas shelters flapping in the breeze.
Hebert said it was impossible to say when the work might resume.
“I don’t control the weather,” he said.
Meanwhile Tuesday, Vice President Joe Biden was visiting with local officials along the Gulf Coast.
Associated Press writers Harry R. Weber in Houston, Brian Skoloff in Pensacola, Fla., Michael Kunzelman and John Flesher in New Orleans contributed to this report.
NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins
On December 28, 2013, Expedition 38 crew member Mike Hopkins participating in the second of two space walks to replace a degraded pump module on the International Space Station. (NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio is reflected in his helmet!)
The Soyuz TMA-10M
The Soyuz TMA-10M headed towards the International Space Station with crew members from Expedition 37 onboard.
40 years ago the Apollo 8 mission flew up to the moon, orbited it ten times and then returned to Earth. This picture was taken from that flight and shows the Earth as it seemingly rises in similar fashion to a sunrise.
Sunrise from Expedition 36
NASA Flight Engineer Karen L. Nyberg of Expedition 36 took this photo of the sun rising -- a sight they saw nearly 16 times per day due to the speed of the International Space Station's orbit around the earth.
A pair of NanoRacks CubeSats -- nanosattelite spacecrafts carrying experiments -- were launched by Expedition 38.