MOUTH OF THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER — Oil from a massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico oozed into Louisiana’s ecologically rich wetlands today as storms threatened to frustrate desperate protection efforts. The White House put a hold on any new offshore oil projects until the rig disaster that caused the spill is explained.

Crews in boats patrolled coastal marshes early today looking for areas where the oil has flowed in, the Coast Guard said.

The National Weather Service predicted winds, high tides and waves through Sunday that could push oil deep into the inlets, ponds and lakes that line the boot of southeastern Louisiana. Seas of 6 to 7 feet were pushing tides several feet above normal toward the coast, compounded by thunderstorms expected in the area today.

As the sun rose over Venice, dozens of boats, some carrying booms that will help hold back the oil, sat ready at Cypress Cove pier. Fishing guide Mike Dickinson, 56, was taking out some fishermen from Georgia in hopes of making money before more oil washes in.
“We’ve been getting calls from customers concerned about the fishing, whether it’s going to open,” he said.

The weather will keep crews from skimming oil off of the surface or burning it off for the next couple of days because of the weather, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Sally Brice-O’Hara said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Waves may also wash over booms strung out just off shorelines to stop the oil, said Tom McKenzie, a spokesman for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is hoping booms will keep oil off the Chandeleur Islands, part of a national wildlife refuge.

A top adviser to President Barack Obama said today that no new oil drilling would be allowed until authorities learn what caused the fiery April 20 explosion on the rig Deepwater Horizon. David Axelrod said on “Good Morning America” that “no additional drilling has been authorized and none will until we find out what has happened here.” Obama recently lifted a drilling moratorium for many offshore areas, including the Atlantic and Gulf.

Meanwhile, two Air Force C-130s were sent to Mississippi and awaited orders to start dumping chemicals on the oil spill.

The Navy also sent equipment for the cleanup, and Pentagon officials were talking with the Department of Homeland Security to figure out what other help the military could give.

The leak from a blown-out well a mile underwater is five times bigger than first believed. More than 200,000 gallons of oil a day are spewing from the site of the rig, which was operated by BP and owned by Transocean Ltd. It sank two days after the explosion.

The Coast Guard is working with BP to deploy floating booms, skimmers and chemical dispersants, and has set controlled fires to burn the oil off the water’s surface.

Faint fingers of oily sheen began reaching the Mississippi River delta late Thursday, lapping the Louisiana shoreline in long, thin lines. Thicker oil was farther offshore. Officials have said they would do everything to keep the Mississippi River open to traffic.

The Coast Guard defended the federal response so far. Asked on all three network television morning shows today whether the government has done enough to push oil company BP PLC to plug the underwater leak and protect the coast, Brice-O’Hara said the response led by the Coast Guard has been rapid, sustained and has adapted as the threat grew.

The oil slick could become the nation’s worst environmental disaster in decades, threatening to eclipse even the worst oil spill in U.S. history, the Exxon Valdez, the grounded tanker that leaked 11 million gallons in Alaska’s Prince William Sound in 1989. The sheen measured about 70 miles by 130 miles as of Thursday, and officials expected to update that figure Friday.

It imperils hundreds of species of fish, birds and other wildlife along the Gulf Coast, one of the world’s richest seafood grounds, teeming with shrimp, oysters and other marine life.

“This is a very, very big thing,” David Kennedy, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told The Associated Press about the spill. “And the efforts that are going to be required to do anything about it, especially if it continues on, are just mind-boggling.”

Volunteers were preparing to help wildlife that might be affected. Oil clumps seabirds’ feathers, leaving them without insulation – and when they preen, they swallow it. Prolonged contact with the skin can cause burns, said Nils Warnock, a spill recovery supervisor with the California Oiled Wildlife Care Network at the University of California-Davis. Oil swallowed by animals can cause anemia, hemorrhaging and other problems, said Jay Holcomb, executive director of the International Bird Rescue Research Center in California. After the leak from the ocean floor proved far bigger than initially reported, some in Louisiana sensed the government had failed them again, just as it did during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Cade Thomas, a fishing guide in Venice, worried that his livelihood will be destroyed. He said he did not know whether to blame the Coast Guard, the government or BP.

“They lied to us. They came out and said it was leaking 1,000 barrels when I think they knew it was more. And they weren’t proactive,” he said. “As soon as it blew up, they should have started wrapping it with booms.”

BP shares continued falling early today. Shares were down 2 percent in early trading on the London Stock Exchange, a day after dropping 7 percent in London. In New York on Thursday, BP shares fell $4.78 to close at $52.56, taking the fall in the company’s market value to about $25 billion since the explosion.

BP has requested more resources from the Defense Department, especially underwater equipment that might be better than what is commercially available. A BP executive said the corporation would “take help from anyone.” That includes fishermen who could be hired to help deploy containment boom.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency so officials could begin preparing for the oil’s impact. He also asked the federal government if he could call up 6,000 National Guard troops to help.