June 2nd, 2010
07:57 PM ET

A day with Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen and the oil spill

Adm. Thad Allen has been called many things: Sir, commandant, TA, fearless leader and now, the latest headline in print calls him a “rock star.”

He laughs, but when it comes time for “down time,” it’s music that calms his mind.

“I am very careful who rents space in my head,” he tells me as I ask whether all the criticism over this oil disaster in the Gulf  gets to him.

Something else that doesn’t seem to bother him that much is his insane schedule. Believe me, it’s nothing like a real rock star - this man who is leading the response to the biggest oil disaster in history is a machine.

He wakes up at 4:30 a.m., and we caught up with him at 6:30. First line of business? Starbucks. His security detail knows where to find every coffee house in every state he’s traveling through. On Wednesday, it’s a café latte because he tells me he doesn’t get enough calcium.

Spike Lee enters the Starbucks and can’t wait to tell Allen about his latest movie on the oil spill. Allen turns to me and says, “only in NOLA.”

So that’s a little flavor, but listen to what happens in the next 32 minutes with Allen: He’s on his Blackberry, cell phone, wireless computer, reading report after report on the booming and oil flow.

He checks his iGoogle page, which has a leadership quote of the day, every Google news story with the key words, “oil spill” and “Thad Allen.”

He’s got sports scores, weather and even a Spanish word of the day. Tomar, “to take,” was on the screen today.

The admiral has been taking a lot this morning: calls from Cabinet secretaries, pleas for more resources from governors and many, many questions from the White House.

He’s already talked with energy and global warming czar  Carol Browner three times and the head of the Army Corps of Engineers, Gen. Van Antwerp, about building barrier islands to protect the marshlands.

The admiral is constantly negotiating deals, and this is one he really wants - those barrier islands, which he says will protect the shrimp, oysters and other seafood that all of us enjoy.

The White House wants to know how his dinner last night with BP CEO Tony Hayward went, and he’s told he’ll be seeing Lisa Jackson, the head of the EPA, in just a few hours.

Can I remind you? This happens all within 32 minutes. And, the rest of the day is just as vigorous.

We head to Houma, Louisiana, where one of the major arteries of the response is located. The Incident Command Post is where everyone from BP, U.S. Coast Guard, NOAA, Fish and Wildlife, National Guard, EPA and OSHA sit side by side, battling oil when it hits the surface. All operations are carried out through this center, and people are exhausted.

The admiral gets on a conference call with his Cabinet secretaries and holds a news conference with dozens of reporters. Then, we board a Coast Guard search and rescue plane and fly over the marshlands, Chandeleur Islands and the spot where the oil rig exploded. The skimming efforts around that gushing well are enormous.

Once we touch down, the calls start coming in again - this time, the attorney general, congressmen, senators and, of course, the White House. The admiral has to not only work with BP to cap the gushing oil, but he has to also protect a possible crime scene. AG Eric Holder  is not wavering  for a moment on his investigation.

Next stop is a staging area in Cocodrie, Louisiana. Huge USCG cargo pallets of booms line the road leading to the water. There’s dozens of trailers to house the contractors working 12 hours on, 12 hours off. All of a sudden, EPA chief Lisa Jackson comes into the room and it’s a walk-and-talk about toxic dispersants, which the EPA wants BP to use less.

Bottom line: This day is about full transparency, and I have seen it.

In fact, President Obama just granted Allen that "deal" he's been working on all day: building barrier islands to protect the marshlands. One more victory for the man whose trying to please everyone.

Allen has taken on the biggest challenge of his career. A strange request for a man who actually retired just less than two weeks ago.

soundoff (88 Responses)
  1. JLT Plumbing,Larry

    cnn : would you like to see drawings of device to put in oil wll to seal and relieve pressure,was sent to horizon support and BP OIL. I have a copy of drawings

    June 3, 2010 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |

      IT`S easy, from watching on tv,and the comments from the medial, what can be done is place a
      magnet cap in line with a magnet ring over the pipe, i have drawing,to show how it`s done, it`s call male- female
      connnction,the oil will help seal the magnet connection ---770-774-7173

      June 4, 2010 at 1:20 am | Report abuse |
  2. Sean O'Sullivan

    I have had to stop following the story for reasons of self-preservation. I started panicking when watching the coverage, viewing damage that has already occurred, and not knowing what the full extent of the damage will be once it's all over (if ever). My heart goes out to everyone effected.

    June 3, 2010 at 10:07 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jonathan Kurpaska


    Why is no one doing this? Please people watch this video! This WILL clean the oil spill.... this is ridiculous....

    June 3, 2010 at 10:20 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Judy Lake-Corey

    In 1995 05 1996, I saw an ad put out by BP. It was supposed to depict the amount of oil leakage in Alaska compared to the volume of oil derived from the Alaska pipeline. They graphically illustrated the volume of oil vs a 10% leakage. There was a huge drop to illustrate the entie volume and just a tiny drop to illustrate leakage. This leakage amount was supposed to depict about 10% but the graphic was more like a smal; part of one %. Ever since I've said BP stood for Broken Promises. And then in the year 2000, BP actually changed there name to Beyond Petroleum. I wasn't supprised. I felt that this just demonstrated that there were more Broken Promises, And everyday now with this disaster, BP continues to illustrate that their real name is philosophy is more Broken Promises. It about time they were really held accountable, but forever, they will be the company of Broken Promises. It's up to our govenment to make sure that they don't get away with more lies and shirked responsibilty.

    June 3, 2010 at 10:23 pm | Report abuse |
  5. John

    I think people would better understand the difficulties of fixing this problem if the announcers would stop talking about "feet". Most people have no concept of how far 5000 feet is. So say "This leak is a mile below the ocean surface" will communicate the distance much better than 5000 feet. And don't say "The relief well will tap into the leaking well about 18,000 feet below the ocean floor." Say it will hook up 3 and a half miles. If you want to make people understand, use miles and not feet!

    June 3, 2010 at 10:50 pm | Report abuse |
  6. sf

    I think it looks much worse now with cap...something not right

    June 3, 2010 at 10:55 pm | Report abuse |
  7. sf

    hello anyone think same?

    June 3, 2010 at 10:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave man

      Glad I am not the only one! 🙂

      June 3, 2010 at 11:29 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Maja

    "Humans multiply, deplete environment (that is the difference with the rest of the mammals who live in balance with the environment) and then they have no choice but to move to another area. Do you know who follows the same pattern in Nature? Virus! Humans are like a disease." (from "The Matrix")

    June 3, 2010 at 11:10 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Disapointed

    I am very upset at all the negative media against BP! I agree that this is a catastrophe of great proportion, however, laying blame is NOT fixing the problem. You seem to think BP is an evil international company from overseas, but what you are not taking in consideration, is that BP has hundreds, maybe even thousands or more American's employed. My spouse has worked for them for 15 yrs and since BP bought out Amoco, they have changed a lot. They are about spending money to ensure more efficient and green living within the business. My husband is a middle class, very hardworking employee...who is stressing with fear of loosing his job because of all the negative political and media against BP.
    The banks can steal peoples homes and Obama gives the banks our hardworking tax dollars....then they give out big bonuses....and the media was less aggressive with them. I don't get it?
    BP wants this to be over....more than we do. CNN do you think the American people are ignorant? We know it was an unfortunate accident that killed BP employees and now is effecting not only the economy in Louisiana, but all the wildlife as well.
    I think Obama needed to take over as a major disaster from day one! What is he doing? Do you think his "frustration" is helping the situation? This blame game is only showing how immature and inexperienced our government really is.
    Oh, and another thing...how can you show oil drenched birds fighting for a breath and waste time filming them. Any animal advocate would immediately wipe, clean, or attempt CPR on them. CNN films them in a pitiful shape but doesn't show any help for the birds. I have always been a CNN fan, until now.

    June 3, 2010 at 11:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave man

      Great point.
      However the real blame should be labeled at the conned-sumer.
      How many know exactly where ther gas comes from?
      Or cares?
      Place the blame on the ones who buy their product from them.
      And dont forget some for at least the last three decades of policy.

      June 3, 2010 at 11:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave man

      Glad I can help ya out again!
      Also glad You want to help out!
      Go here:
      (a site CNN showed)

      June 3, 2010 at 11:36 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Dave man

    I agree with SF, it is MUCH WORSE NOW!
    Something is definately not right.
    I dont see it ever being stopped until a bottom kill.

    Thank you to CNN! Keep on them.
    No one else has the guts too apparrently.

    June 3, 2010 at 11:27 pm | Report abuse |
  11. art

    Hi, looking at the pictures of the 3 birds covered in oil... have they had a chance to be cleaned and survive?

    June 3, 2010 at 11:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave man

      Art, from what I heard they are headed to get cleaned up.
      As bad as they look, I'd give em about a 50/50.
      Truly sickening, frustrating and heartbreaking.
      Go here if you want to help, anyone please?

      June 3, 2010 at 11:41 pm | Report abuse |
  12. art

    Thanks. Oh, my neighbor works for Chevron... should i go punch him in the face!!

    June 3, 2010 at 11:45 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Disapointed

    The truth of the matter is ...we need the oil industry....we definately need to drill here to keep us from depending on the other countries. Unless Obama bans natural gas heating and all gas run vehicles...we are far from that scenerio. So, not drilling in our country would make us have to depend on the foreign countries and we know what can happen there.

    June 3, 2010 at 11:53 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Nyles Cota

    anyone know if the cap is working or how far along in the placement process are they? whats the deal. thanks

    June 4, 2010 at 12:00 am | Report abuse |
  15. Bryan

    Why is the President just now approving the barrier islands?! The governor of LA has been screaming for those barrier islands for weeks!

    June 4, 2010 at 12:37 am | Report abuse |
    • shirley

      Despite what this article puports, Thad Allen was one of the major obstacles in getting the sand barriers built. He has rejected oil tankers to suck up the oil, can't have any more oil skimmers, and as I have been told, has limited the use of the extra thousands of National gusrd. Barataria Bay and Grand Isle ruin has been on Allen's watch

      June 5, 2010 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
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