Ala. Raycom stations hold statewide report on oil crisis

Posted by: John Shryock - bio | email

GULF SHORES, AL (WSFA) - The Raycom News Network of sister stations in Alabama pooled resources Wednesday evening to present a live, one hour report originating from Alabama's coast.

Reporters from WSFA 12 News in Montgomery, WBRC Fox 6 in Birmingham, WAFF 48 News in Huntsville and WTVM Newsleader 9 in Columbus, Georgia gathered on the beaches of Gulf Shores for the report. Numerous other Raycom stations along the Southeastern Gulf Coast carried the report as well.

The report, broken into seven parts, focused on the massive oil spill and its effects on Alabama. Governor Bob Riley, State Tourism Director Lee Sentell, Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft and BP Deputy Incident Commander Kris Sliger each made appearances during the report to give their expert opinions of the crisis.

Each station's website also held a live forum where viewers asked questions of experts Dr. George Crozier, Executive Director of the Dauphin Island Sea Lab; and Bruce Stallsmith, UAH professor in aquatic biology and fisheries biology. Review the forum HERE.


Governor Bob Riley said the state of Alabama would not be in the situation it is currently in if boom that was promised to the state was delivered. "A lot of hard decisions had to be made, and they had to be made early on," Riley said, "but the thing that concerned me the most was that people from outside the state were making the decision on what was best for the state of Alabama."

The governor said numerous committees have made the job of containment and cleanup much more difficult, but "If we ever go through it again, God forbid..., we will be better prepared than we were." ENTIRE INTERVIEW IN VIDEO TWO.

Much of the report focused on the local economies and the financial struggles the spill is creating. Some restaurants and fishing processors say sales are down as much at 95 percent.
In Bayou La Batre, which calls itself the Seafood Capital of Alabama, processors are completely unsure of what will happen to them. "We normally produce anywhere from 60 to 100,000 pounds of shrimp per day," says one man who owns a shrimping plant. "Right now, we are not doing anything."
If you like to eat seafood like oysters and shrimp, you've notice the steep climb in prices. Some prices are up 30-40 percent. One oyster distributor says he only has about 10 percent of what he needs to be able to make a shipment.
With no customers, businesses are slashing prices, some up to 70 percent to lure customers back to the coast. Lance Lisenby has been visiting the Gulf Coast all his life and says he won't stop now. "The people are hurting bad down here..." he explains, but, "we love it down here, can't stop coming. Even more now, because we know they need the business."

It's a sentiment Lucy Buffett, owner of Lulu's restaurant and sister of country music legend Jimmy Buffett, wishes more people would express. "We are in deep, deep grief.." she says. Buffett is now part of a nationwide advertisement to bring visitors back to the coast. ENTIRE INTERVIEWS IN VIDEO ONE

Alabama depends heavily on tourism. It's a $9 billion industry for the state, and more than a quarter of that revenue is generated in Baldwin County, on the beaches. "It could be very critical and devastating if we lose a lot of those dollars," said Edith Parton with the Alabama Department of Tourism.
Lee Sentell, Director of Alabama Tourism, has spent his whole life trying to bring people to the state, and his job is getting harder by the day. "We have commercials on the air now..." he said of the massive effort to restore confidence in the idea of coastal visits.
Sentell and the state are pulling out all the guns to draw crowds. The biggest idea: "If we had dreamed up, if somebody would come up with a fantastic idea, nothing could have exceeded Jimmy Buffett doing a live concert down here." The Zac Brown Band, Kenny Chesney and others are set to join him for the huge event.

Sentell says hotels and rental companies are also relaxing their policies to bring renters in. If you aren't satisfied with the stay, they'll be more accommodating than usual. ENTIRE INTERVIEW IN VIDEO FOUR

With the focus on clean up and stopping the spill, nothing could be more worrisome than bad weather. Hurricane season is officially started and meteorologists are carefully watching the Gulf for any potentially bad storms. One looks to be developing now, possibly into a tropical storm. ENTIRE INTERVIEW IN VIDEO THREE ALSO, CHECK OUT THE RAYCOM WEATHER BLOG.
He's trying to make good on promises by BP to pay for the damage the oil leak is causing. His name is Kris Sliger. "The $20 billion has been set aside as the first phase of making sure that we make everything right," he said. Sliger says about 20,000 Alabamians have made claims so far, for a total of about $20 million. Sliger says he understands the rage that he encounters from people along the coast. He says one of his biggest challenges is to help people channel their rage into something constructive. ENTIRE INTERVIEW IN VIDEO THREE

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