BILOXI — Oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster hit Mississippi shores for the first time Tuesday, covering about two miles of Petit Bois Island's beach.
A larger glob crept close to Dauphin Island in Alabama, and the edge of the main slick has moved to within about 35 miles of Mississippi, about half the distance it was last week.
On Tuesday evening the state departments of Marine Resources and Environmental Quality, effective immediately, closed portions of eastern state waters to commercial and recreational fishing, the first such closures for Mississippi since the oil disaster more than a month ago.
Gov. Haley Barbour said the "caramel-colored" strand of oil that hit Petit Bois was about a yard wide and two miles long and had escaped detection because it was floating a couple of feet below the surface.
Barbour said about 90 workers were sent to Petit Bois, but storms Tuesday delayed the start of cleanup. He said they should be able to clean all the oil off the island today.
Barbour said the oil appears to be "emulsified, weathered and beat up" and "we are told it's not toxic" and workers should be able to scoop it up with shovels.
The governor continued with what has become his mantra about the spill: No one in Mississippi should panic; tourists should continue to come and the national media should stop making it sound as if "we are ankle-deep in oil ... like this is Armageddon." This message, which Barbour and the leaders of state agencies repeat, has astounded some local elected leaders and environmentalists.
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