WASHINGTON — The effort to contain a pipe that's gushing crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico had one of its first victories, as BP crews successfully placed a containment cap over the well overnight.
Around midnight, the oil giant began producing oil from the well, sending an estimated 1,000 barrels to the surface for processing.
U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the national incident commander for the oil spill that began April 20, cautioned against too much optimism. But it was a rare piece of good news 46 days after a deadly explosion that killed 11 people and sent as much as 25,000 barrels of oil a day into the fragile Gulf ecosystem.
"Generally, progress is being made," Allen said, adding, "I think we need to caution against over-optimism here. There's always been adjustments that have been made in the process as we move forward, but in general, progress is being made."
Oil is still visibly leaking from the containment cap — it's visible on the underwater video feed. But that's expected to improve throughout the course of the day as crew close the vents on the device and fully deploy it. Right now, it's producing what Allen called "a rough estimate" of about 1,000 barrels a day of oil. That number is expected to go up.
The relatively good news was tempered by a sense of panic in Florida, Mississippi and Alabama as officials in those states began to grapple with the oil heading their way. Southerly winds are pushing sending the northern edge of the oil spill — which Allen described as "disaggregated" — toward Mississippi, Alabama and northern Florida coastlines, Allen said.
They've launched a full-tilt war on the spill, by deploying booms, skimmers and additional Coast Guard personnel to the area, Allen said, in addition to their cleanup efforts on the Louisiana coastline and marshes. Allen said that Florida Gov. Charlie Crist called him Thursday night, asking for more resources.
"We now have a battle line, if you will, that stretches from Terrebonne Parish in Louisiana over to around the beaches by Pensacola, Florida," he said.
President Barack Obama later today will visit Louisiana, where he is expected to visit with local officials and business owners.