DAUPHIN ISLAND, Ala. -- Red-brown oil made its first appearance today on the Alabama island near the mouth of Mobile Bay, three weeks after tar balls were found there.
Donald Williamson, director of the state Department of Public Health, said patches of oil washed up on Dauphin Island's east end, prompting officials to close some state waters to fishing and post warnings urging beachgoers to stay out of the water.
"It's weathered oil. I don't sense that this is the beginning of a tide of oil but we are going to have to monitor it to see exactly how much more comes in," Williamson said of the oil sighted on the island, a popular tourist destination.
Williamson said the state was advising swimmers to avoid the waters of the Gulf of Mexico on the western side of Mobile Bay but had not banned swimming. He said no oil had been reported on the east side of Mobile Bay, where Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are summertime tourist havens.
Williamson said state researchers have discovered rising amounts of hydrocarbons in water samples taken close to shore, but he described the levels as minute.
Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the national incident commander overseeing the response to the spill, today described the spill as a series of patches rather than one continuous slick. Williamson said Alabama officials believe the oil at Dauphin Island is one of those patches.
Today, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration extended the fishing ban in federal waters of the Gulf. More than 31 percent of federal waters, including all off the Alabama coast, are now closed to fishing because of the oil spill.
Williamson said the fisheries closure affected the only three oyster beds remaining open in Alabama waters and extended from the mouth of Mobile Bay west to the Mississippi state line.
State waters east of the mouth of Mobile Bay remain open to fishing.
Officials with the Port of Mobile said the port is open to commercial traffic and no closures are expected.
In neighboring Mississippi, Gov. Haley Barbour said a 2-miles-long narrow strand of oil was found today on Petit Bois Island, south of Jackson County.
Petit Bois is the easternmost barrier island in the state and near the Alabama state line.
Barbour said officials believe the strand broke off a patch south of Horn Island on Sunday.
June 01, 2010,
Workers collect washed-up oil along the coastline of Dauphin Island, Ala. Tuesday, June 1, 2010, as oil leaking from the Deepwater Horizon wellhead continues to spread in the Gulf of Mexico. Since the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon rig, a disaster scenario has emerged with millions of gallons of crude oil spewing unchecked into the Gulf.
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