President Obama headed for the Gulf Coast today, where all eyes are focused on the massive oil slick threatening to swallow the environment and economy of American shores from Louisiana to Florida. With tourist beaches, fragile marshes, marine life, and lush fishing grounds at stake, experts tried in vain to gauge the scope of the disaster; the Coast Guard conceded it had no idea how many gallons had leaked, even as the surface slick appeared to triple in size over the past two days.
BP won't say how much oil is beneath the seabed, but an anonymous official put it at tens of millions of barrels—a staggering prospect. The worst-case scenario remains a question mark, but that oil stands a strong chance of entering the Gulf Stream—which would carry it around the southern tip of Florida and up the eastern seaboard. "It will be on the East Coast of Florida in almost no time," said one expert. "I don't think we can prevent that."