By Maria Burnham/The Associated Press
GULFPORT — Two congressmen who flew over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill Saturday said people who live along coastlines should be concerned but not fearful.
Democratic Rep. Gene Taylor of Mississippi and Republican Rep. Jo Bonner of Alabama spent more than three hours on a Coast Guard flight over the spill. They represent coastal districts.
After landing in Gulfport, Taylor said the oil spill is large but it’s “not Armageddon.” He said he saw no oil slicks within about 20 miles of Mississippi marshes.
Bonner said people in coastal areas are accustomed to preparing for hurricanes but not for oil spills.
“Anyone who lives on the Gulf Coast from Florida to Texas should be concerned,” Bonner said.
Taylor said most of the spill appears to be a thin sheen on the water, but concentrations of oil in some places look like chocolate milk.
“It’s not nearly as bad as you think it is,” Taylor said. “Could it get worse? Yes. Could it get better? Yes.”
Inflatable booms have been deployed in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana to protect ports, harbors and shipyards.
Many residents have been carrying on normal weekend activities, even as many fret that the spill could threaten the seafood industry and tourism. Along the Mississippi coast on Saturday, groups set up picnics on the sand beach in Gulfport, shoppers picked vegetables at a farmer’s market in Ocean Springs and gamblers crowded into casinos.
The Coast Guard said Saturday it’s impossible to tell how much oil has pushed into the Gulf since the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon exploded April 20 and sank two days later.
Of the crew of 126, 11 are missing and presumed dead.