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article imageDispatch from Long Beach, Mississippi: Oil and Shovels Special

By Kay Mathews     Jul 10, 2010 in Environment
A Mississippi native, and current resident of Arkansas, shares her thoughts and photographs of a July 4th spent on familiar, but ever-changed, shores.
As a former reporter for a local newspaper and writer for a local magazine in Northwest Arkansas, Jeannie Greer Smith is accustomed to documenting what she sees through words and photographs. In this instance, she shares her story of a visit home with
Smith was born in Brookhaven, Mississippi and grew up in Jackson. Smith now resides in Springdale, Arkansas, and this year she and her family decided that a trip to the Mississippi Gulf Coast over Memorial Weekend was called for.
After stopping at a Piggly Wiggly grocery store in Brookhaven for snacks, the Smith family made their way to the coastal town of Long Beach, Ms. Smith told that, as she approached the beach, she found it “cleaner than it ever was in my lifetime.”
Long Beach  Mississippi.  July 4  2010.
Long Beach, Mississippi. July 4, 2010.
Jeannie Greer Smith
The reason for this, as Smith learned from the local news station WLOX, is that oil had passed the barrier islands in the Mississippi Gulf Coast and reached Long Beach only days before. According to WLOX, “The ugly mess began washing ashore late Tuesday night,” June 29th.
“Clean-up crews in full haz-mat gear worked to collect sticky globs of oil patties washing onto the rock jetties along the eastern side of Long Beach Harbor on Wednesday morning,” WLOX reported. “They used rakes to corral the gooey mess and dip nets to scoop the patties from the angry surf.”
Clean-up crew at Long Beach  Ms.  July 4  2010.
Clean-up crew at Long Beach, Ms. July 4, 2010.
Jeannie Greer Smith
“Long Beach was the only area we found that had 24-hour clean-up crews,” Smith wrote in a text message to “I know the crews were there to rake tar balls if they found them and cover the oil with white sand.”
Smith said:
I took my kids there for a quick visit, and yes, they shoveled sand over the black stuff which was a thin line of oil. They raked any bigger oil splotches or tar balls into garbage bags.
Shovels and gloves.  Long Beach  Ms.  July 4  2010.
Shovels and gloves. Long Beach, Ms. July 4, 2010.
Jeannie Greer Smith
In a normal time and as part of the vacation fun, Smith would have taken her kids on the Ship Island Excursions ferry. But, Smith said, “We were one of the 40, 000 who opted not to go to Ship Island because I did not want them [kids] to see the mess. They normally have 50,000 people take the excursion boat a summer. This year they estimate 10,000.”
WLOX reports that the BP “oil disaster is having a significant impact on that popular tourist destination. Countless tar patties are washing ashore and a growing number of oil-covered birds are struggling to survive.”
Smith noted that Ship Island is where “the oil soaked birds were found.” She said, “I am glad we didn’t go now that the oil is there. We have very fond memories of the place.”
 BP  in the sands of Long Beach  Ms.  July 4  2010.
"BP" in the sands of Long Beach, Ms. July 4, 2010.
Jeannie Greer Smith
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