Oil spill turns to ‘heartbeat’ of California beach community

An offshore oil spill in Southern California threatens marine life and scenic beaches as well as the lifestyle of those who regularly surf and walk the shore

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. — Most days of the week, David Perry hits the beach to surf. But on Sunday, he sat with his skateboard taking in sweeping ocean views as a jazz band played, families rode bikes and crews tried to save a crude oil patient. to reach the California coast.

Offshore oil rigs are still visible from the community known as “Surf City USA,” and most days are seen as just another hazard for those venturing out with their boards, the report said. 35 year old man. Now the massive spill threatens to keep the ocean off limits for weeks or months, harming marine life and shutting down beachfront activities that are the lifeblood of Huntington Beach in Southern California. .

“Surfing is the heartbeat of the community,” Perry said, adding that he had moved away for a few months and looked forward to returning to the community, where he often encountered top-notch surfers on the waves and found the most residents engaged in an active lifestyle. lifestyle through surfing, skateboarding, cycling or other outdoor exercise. “There’s something about the Huntington Beach heartbeat that has a unique heartbeat.”

The Orange County city of 200,000 is known for its scenic shoreline and hosts many events each year that bring many more people to its shores. Surf shops selling boards and gear line the downtown streets, along with bars and restaurants. On the beach, the bike path attracts cyclists and on a typical day people walk on the pier and watch the surfers in their wetsuits, dancing in the waves.

Beginning Friday evening or Saturday morning, boaters began reporting an oily sheen in the water. At least 126,000 gallons (572,807 liters) of crude oil spilled from a now closed pipeline into waters off Orange County, officials said.

This prompted Huntington Beach officials to close the beach. On Sunday, authorities used loudspeakers to tell visitors to stay out of the water and yellow warning tape was strung between lifeguard towers.

Some people still came to sit on lawn chairs and play beach volleyball, but not the typical crowds of sunny October days. Some had traveled to watch the Pacific Air Show, which drew 1.5 million people on Saturday, but officials canceled the third day of the event as oil began to wash up on the coast and a thick stench permeated the air.

Maxwell Owachgiu, who lives in the inland community of Diamond Bar about 40 miles away, decided to come with his family despite the spill, believing he only landed further south. But he ended up with oily residue stuck to his feet after wading through the water and told his wife their two young daughters should not come in.

Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr said the ocean could be closed for weeks or months, but it’s too early to tell.

Lesa O’Shea, a 63-year-old nurse from the town, said she took a photo of the smelly oil drippings into the ocean and was appalled to see children playing in the water nearby. She said she goes down to the beach at least once a week from her home a few miles away to ride her bike, walk or, if it’s warm enough, swim.

“It’s a beach lifestyle,” O’Shea said as she grabbed a bite to eat at an outdoor restaurant. “So, of course, people are riding bikes, they’re walking on the beach, they’re surfing, they’re swimming, they’re laying in the sun, and now you can’t do any of that over there with the oil slick. “

Before heading home, O’Shea said she plans to stop at the store to buy supplies to donate to a local animal center that cares for injured and sick birds.

Carr, whose husband surfs and daughter attends a junior lifeguard program, said the beach is a big reason her family lives in the community. Seeing the environmental impact of the spill, with oil-covered fish and birds washing up on shore, was devastating, she said.

“There will be a significant impact on our community, but I also know we will bounce back,” she said.

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