Mayo man of the year21

Tracey's on the frontline again

By Ray O'Hanlon

Mayo priest Fr. Michael Tracey can't catch a break. Going on five years since Hurricane Katrina devastated his church on the Mississippi coast, Tracey is again staring out across the warm water of the Gulf of Mexico with a feeling of dread.

"We can't see it but we can smell it when the wind is blowing in from the sea," Fr. Tracey told the Irish Echo this week.

He was referring to the massive oil slick that is threatening the entire Gulf coast, this after the recent oil rig explosion that killed eleven workers and has been gushing oil 5,000 feet below the surface since the blast.

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"What we are most worried about is our Crab Fest on July 4. That's out big fundraiser of the year," Tracey told the Echo.

The gathering not just features crab, but all manner of seafood drawn from the Gulf and shipped in to nearby harbors.

"If this oil badly affects the fisheries we have a major problem," said Tracey, who lived in a FEMA trailer for a time after Katrina tore his house from its foundations and flooded his then newly refurbished church, which stands yards from the water.

Standing in front of the church there is a view of a new railroad bridge a short distance away. The bridge spans a channel leading in from the Gulf.

"They have placed a boom across the channel intended to stop any oil. The weather has been changing and has been obliging us with thunder, lightning and wind that has kept the oil offshore so far," said Tracey.

"We are keeping our fingers crossed and are praying. A lot of people around here depend on the sea. So far we have been spared. We'll take is at it comes," said Tracey, who is from Killawalla near Westport.