100 days later the Gulf Oil Spill
For some of those affected by the Gulf oil blast of 2010, the arterial gushing that began 100 days ago has been replaced by the steady dabbing of beaches and birds.
But 100 days isn't even close to enough time to heal for those affected most profoundly by the explosion that continues to spew oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
Melinda Becnel, whose fiance, Keith Blair Manuel, was killed in the initial Deepwater Horizon blast, still bleeds.
The way I feel today isn't different than I felt the first day," Becnel said.
First hit, last to recover
While the capping of the spewing well brought comfort to some along the coast, Becnel, a grandmother from St. Amant, La., wasn't one of them. For her, watching the tragedy play out on the pages of newspapers and the clips on television pale to her own tragedy.
"I'm not saying it's not a bad situation, and if I hadn't been hurt so bad, maybe I'd feel different," she said. "It's hard to think beyond that."
She finds comfort holding her grandchildren, ages 4, 2 and six weeks. But the time that has passed since the April 20 spill hasn't eased the consuming ache Becnel feels.
She and Manuel were supposed to be married this month.
"I'm going to move on, but it's not easy at all," she said. "If didn't have these grandchildren that I had ... It's very difficult."
Moving on is relative.
It will take years for the environment to move on - for the ocean to recover, for the plants and animals to return. But those things are largely replaceable, Becnel points out.
People who live around the Gulf will move on, too.
"I hope they remember 11 people lost their lives. The oil spill is second to that," Becnel said. "As bad as the oil spill is - the fish will die, the shrimp will die, the tourism will die. But that will come back. These men, they won't come back."
Exhausted and angry
In the weeks after the blast, the oil gradually slinked over to the pristine beaches of the Florida Panhandle.
While the residents of those shores first felt the brunt of the spill long after people like Becnel, they are, in many ways, at least closer to recovery. They mourned the death of their beaches and are slowly waking up to the possibility of a resurrection.
Dolores Pittman of Gulf Breeze, Fla., remains bitter at BP but sees the light at the end.
"Everything seems to be better," she said. "We're not getting as thick as oil."
She won't put a toe in the water just yet - not until the last of the health advisories evaporate. That could be a while.
So although the beaches are looking whiter, her summer still seems like a lost cause.
"We're like baseball players with no field to play in," Pittman said. "It's taken away part of us."
Looking forward, Pittman is apprehensive. She doesn't feel anyone - the government, BP, environmental experts - have given a full and accurate picture of what the region can expect in the coming months and years.
As she can't move forward on fact, Pittman continues to rely on emotion.
"I feel cheated as many others do," she said. "This is my home, and they have left it damaged for generations. I wonder what they have left for my grandchildren or great-grandchildren to deal with."
If the days immediately after the Deepwater Horizon explosion were mired in confusion, the days ahead could be even murkier.
Mark Sudduth, founder of the Hurricane Intercept Research Team and editor of the website hurricanetrack.com, has been storm chasing since 1995. Storms off the coast have already put temporary halts on skimming operations, and Sudduth said all indications are this year is going to be a violent one.
While half a dozen hurricanes make for a typical summer, Sudduth said this year the region might see twice that.
Already, Sudduth is on a campaign to quash a budding rumor mill. Fears of black, oil-filled rain have already surfaced, Sudduth said.
"The fear has run rampant, with people talking about it raining oil," he said. "If that was going to happen it would have happened during Katrina. It was so big and massive.
"(Hurricanes) go right over the oil platforms, and there's hundreds across the Gulf. It doesn't rain toxic chemicals during any other hurricane. Oil is too heavy to be evaporated in the atmosphere. There's no such thing as oil vapor."
And actually, after years witnessing and studying the tempers and habits of hurricanes, Sudduth said a tropical storm might not be such a bad thing - as long as it stays mostly out to sea.
A bad storm could churn up the oil and help disperse it, forming a cocktail of the sea's salty water and the hurricane's addition of freshwater.
It'll beak up the concentration. Freshwater will dilute it more," Sudduth said. "It's a natural way to disperse a natural substance. A hurricane might not be so bad - as long as it's not a severe hurricane. You have to be careful what you wish for."
While the results of a tropical storm on an oil-filled Gulf are unknown, one thing is certain. People will panic, Sudduth said.
Whether it's raining oil or toxic vapors are heading inland - another colorful and unfounded threat Sudduth has heard - bad information has a way of permeating the population, much like oil on sand.
"There's great potential for rumors of epic proportion in a season like this," he said. "And it'll happen. You watch."
Carlene Peterson works for Chicago Suburban Life Publications as an editor. She journeyed to the Gulf last month to cover the oil spill for GateHouse News Service. She can be reached at email@example.com.