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Oil spill’s impact on Gulf coast city

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Kai Ryssdal: The epicenter of that spill in the Gulf is well offshore of cpurse. But a good part of the real action and also the impact is obviously the point where oil meets land. Along the coastlines of Louisiana, Mississippi, and possibly Alabama and Florida.

Kate Archer Kent has been exploring Bay St. Louis, Miss., just east of New Orleans, all day. Kate, good to have you with us.

Kate Archer Kent: I’m happy to be here.

Ryssdal: Bay St. Louis is right on the Gulf there. It’s a beach town, a tourist town. What have you seen and heard the last day or so?

KENT: Well, Kai, I went straight to the beach here in Bay St. Louis, and I saw beach walkers who are so concerned that their beach will be just decimated by the spill. And the booms had been blowing into shore, so I saw lots of the Coast Guard trying to get these booms back out to sea, and so they’re just hoping they can hold off the spill from Bay St. Louis.

Ryssdal: Obviously a bad sign if those oil prevention booms are actually on the beach already, right?

KENT: Oh yeah, they have to get them back out there fast in case the wind changes and that oil moves toward Bay St. Louis.

Ryssdal: Kate, what about the rest of the town then?

KENT: Well, I visited with the mayor, and he told me about 40 percent of the town’s revenues come from tourism, and a lot of the people here were building second homes, and he said some people are just starting to venture back to the Gulf Coast after Katrina, and now this…

Les Fillingame: You know, a lot of people just have not come since Katrina, and now they’re really starting to venture back into South Mississippi, and man, it would just be catastrophic to see anything deter that.

KENT: I also talked with a lawyer, Becky Farrell here in Bay St. Louis, and she is representing fisherman and some of the shrimpers here. She said they’ve been offered first come some of the work that BP is offering for the clean-up, but some of her clients are reluctant to take this paid work, and this is why.

Becky Farrell: It’s very dangerous to be out in oil with their vessels, their vessels are anywhere from $60,000, to $150,000, to $200,000, to $250,000 vessels, and they don’t want to take that out into the oil and the sludge and damage their engines and ruin their vessels.

RYSSDAL: Yeah, oil obviously on the outside of an engine is kind of a problem. What about the hotels, Kate, in town, and the shops where the locals make their living?

KENT: Well, a couple of gallery owners are not deterred. I talked with Nancy Moynan, she owns Maggie May’s. She survived Katrina, rebuilt her same store right where it was blown down by Katrina, and she’s not deterred that this oil spill is going to impact her business. And so she said it may actually bring in more people. This is what she said…

Nancy Moynan: I think there’s always the curiosity seekers that will come out and come to see what’s going on, and that’s not a bad thing. Just in the past weekend we’ve seen tons of people out on the beaches taking pictures, just kind of look and see what’s going on.

KENT: So people here are keeping their fingers crossed and hoping for the best.

Ryssdal: More to come out of the Gulf Coast, obviously. Kate Archer Kent in Bay St. Louis, Miss., for us today. Kate, thanks a lot.

KENT: You’re welcome.

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