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Thad Allen: 'This is a siege across the entire Gulf'

The bursting river of crude that is tainting the Gulf of Mexico — and has now begun to sully Florida's coastline — should be significantly slowed by British Petroleum's new containment cap, the company's chief executive said Sunday.

But while BP head Tony Hayward proclaimed the cap will likely capture "the majority, probably the vast majority," of oil gushing into the Gulf, the federal government's oil-spill point-man focused on the bleak reality that surrounds that welcome bit of good news — and said the crisis would likely linger into autumn.

In a morning appearance on CBS' Face the Nation, Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen warned that some additional oil will keep flowing into the Gulf of Mexico, despite the cap. Bottom line: The ongoing environmental catastrophe, now in its 49th day, will last "well into the fall," Allen said.

"This is a siege across the entire Gulf," Allen said.

A true stop to the oil flow can only be achieved after the deep-water gusher is fully cemented shut, which will require the completion of a relief well that's still months away from being done.

Once the leak is finally sealed, Allen said there will still be oil spread throughout the Gulf — making the cleanup far from over even then.

Allen's comments came as the white sand beaches of the Florida Panhandle continued to be fouled by scattered tar balls. Across the state, the fear was that damage to Florida's precious coastline was poised to get much, much worse.

Cleanup crews in white plastic pants with yellow shoe protectors sealed by gray duct tape were arriving at Pensacola Beach shortly after 7:30 a.m. local time, picking up tar and raking seaweed into large, clear plastic bags.

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