BP workers used fishing nets to scoop tar balls off Alabama's Gulf Coast beaches Wednesday after the white sands were fouled by gooey, dark gobs churned up by heavy surf from tropical system Lee.
Both the company and area officials said it would be days before tests determined whether the tar balls were from last year's massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, but BP contractors were removing the pollution anyway.
Grant Brown, a spokesman for the city of Gulf Shores, said residents have feared more oil remains on the Gulf's sandy floor despite months of cleaning, and the appearance of tar balls after Lee only reinforced those concerns.
"It's more proof that there still are offshore tar mats and it's washing ashore ... and it's going to continue, it looks like, coming to shore ," said Brown.
Meanwhile, thousands of Alabama residents remained without power Wednesday as a result of Lee. Alabama Power Co. officials said about 200,000 were without power after the storm hit over the weekend and that about 52,000 remained in the dark Wednesday afternoon, mostly in the Birmingham area.
Alabama Power spokesman Ike Pigott said the outages occurred because of high winds and torrential rains in the Birmingham area when the tropical system collided Monday with a cold front. He said getting all of the power restored has taken time because "we had significant trees down."
On the Alabama coast, with the summer tourist season over, relatively few tourists were on the beaches as the cleanup began. Crews walked the beaches using nets to pick up hundreds of tar balls, which were dumped into large plastic bags and hauled off the beach for disposal.
BP spokesman Justin Saia said teams were evaluating the condition of Gulf beaches following the storm.
"As these teams report results of their assessments over the coming days, response teams will be mobilized as necessary to respond to these affected areas," he said.