Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
6:39 PM PDT, April 17, 2011
GULF OF MEXICO
The Gulf of Mexico is deep blue again. On the Alabama coast, children run on crowded beaches and splash in the surf. In fishing villages, shrimpers whitewash boat decks in preparation for another season.
But a year after BP's Deepwater Horizon disaster, uncertainty, confusion and disrupted lives blot the coast as well - the palpable legacy of America's largest offshore oil spill.
The shock was immediate a year ago, when a bright, violent explosion flashed on the ink-dark expanse of the gulf. Eleven men were missing and then presumed dead. Soon, oil streaked the surface, crept into marshes and stained beaches. Oil plumes wafted like giant ghosts in deep, isolated ocean ecosystems.
The grief was followed by months of sickening, slow-motion dread as the narrative of the spill unfolded on a vast stage, piling up statistics of a nearly unfathomable magnitude: 4.1 million barrels of oil gushed into the sea. Hundreds of miles of oiled shoreline spanned four states.
The response, slow and clumsy at first, grew to 47,000 personnel at its peak. They manned 9,700 clean-up vessels, laid hundreds of miles of boom and applied more than 1 million gallons of dispersant.
Now, like the ocean itself, the resilience of gulf residents is being tested.
For thousands, some help has arrived in the form of restitution checks from BP's $20-billion escrow fund - a program criticized as having byzantine rules and too few payouts. As of April 11, about $3.79 billion had been paid to about 175,000 people and businesses.
Though other tragedies now vie for the world's attention, the stories of a few gulf residents - a widow, an oysterman, a sports fishing guide, a rig worker, a public relations veteran - demonstrate that the effects of the great spill of 2010 are far from over.
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