Weather, Wait for Claims Weigh on Gulf Residents

The work at the site of the massive oil spill gushing into the Gulf of Mexico goes on, but it seems everyone from local mayors to the White House's man in charge is asking whether the region is ready for a storm.

Special Section: Disaster in the Gulf

In the waters off Grand Isle, La., fishermen finally caught a break, CBS News Correspondent Kelly Cobiella reports.

For the first time in nearly two months, one bay is open to fishing. Jimmy Richards is happy to be hooking trout after trout, but he's not carefree. He said hurricanes are definitely a concern.

"It can make matters worse," Richards said.

If - or when - a tropical storm takes aim at the spill site, oil would flow freely from the well for 14 days while the rigs on the surface wait out the weather in safer water. BP is working on a better plan, and President Obama's man in charge wants them to move fast.

"At this point, it does not threaten the site, but we know that these tracks can change," Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the national incident commander, told reporters Saturday.

No one is willing to predict what would happen to the oil already in the Gulf. David Walters flies over the water near his Alabama home nearly every day because he can't work. His business creates artificial reefs in the Gulf. He's been shut down since May.

When CBS News first met him two weeks ago, his $350,000 claim with BP was going nowhere.

On Friday, frustrated fishermen met with Kenneth Feinberg, the man the White House has put in charge of fixing the claims process.

"Everything I get up for in the morning is gone," said Dean Blanchard, a seafood processor in Grand Isle. "I don't know what to do with myself. How do you put a price on that?"

"You can't put a price on that," said Feinberg. "You can't."

BP has paid $130 million in claims, including $35,000 to Walters last week, 10 percent of his claim. BP has been renting his boat and crew for five weeks. That money hasn't come through.

"If I don't get paid in the 15 days they say, I won't have money to pay my crew," said Walters. "I'll have a mutiny on my hands."

An independent commission headed by Feinberg is taking over the claims process and is expected to be up and running in another 30 days.
  • Kelly Cobiella

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