GULF OF MEXICO (WLOX) - Monday, April 20, marks the fifth anniversary of the BP oil spill. The catastrophic event unfolded bit by bit, and we all were just waiting to see how bad it really was. Five years later, our perspective has changed. Here's a timeline of events of how it all happened.
It was early on April 20, 2010, when the massive explosion rocked Transocean's Deepwater Horizon rig. Of the 126 people on board, 11 were unaccounted for.
For 36 hours, flames roared out of control. Finally, a second explosion caused the $600 million rig to sink. The focus now: Stopping the oil.
After three days, the Coast Guard called off its search for the 11 missing workers. It's the same day officials with BP announced there was no oil escaping.
By April 24, the oil was evident. The Coast Guard reported an estimated 42,000 gallons of crude oil leaking from the underwater well, some 5,000 feet below the surface.
Day six: BP uses robots to try to activate the blowout preventer. Several efforts to do so fail.
One week after the explosion: Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar launch a federal investigation.
The very next day, we learned that oil had been leaking from the blown out well five times faster than previously reported. The new estimate meant about 210,000 gallons of oil were spilling into the Gulf every day. At this point, there was a steadily increasing, 5,000 square mile oil slick.
April 29, nine days after the explosion: LA Gov. Bobby Jindal declares a state of emergency, and President Obama promises resources to contain the spreading oil.
At this time, new offshore drilling is suspended while the investigation into the Deepwater Horizon explosion continues.
Nearly two weeks after the disaster, President Obama makes his first visit to Louisiana. Meanwhile, BP begins work on the first of two relief wells to be completed in August.
By May 3, the first dead sea turtles start washing ashore in Mississippi.
On day 22, executives from BP, Transocean and Halliburton make their first appearance before a Senate committee.
After using chemical dispersants and making several attempts to stop the oil spewing into the Gulf, BP finally starts capturing some of the oil on May 16. That was 26 days after the explosion. Engineers do this by inserting a narrow tube into the pipe from which most of the oil is leaking. The tube collects 84,000 gallons a day, but that means there's still another 126,000 gallons escaping into the Gulf.
Our worst fears are realized a month after the disaster. Oil washes ashore in Louisiana, covering marshlands. Soon, images of oil-covered birds and marine wildlife start dominating news headlines, and oil washes up in Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Texas.
BP tries more tactics to plug the leaking oil, 'Top Kill' and 'Junk Shot.' It's not enough.
On May 27, more than a month after the explosion, scientists announce the BP spill is the worst in U.S. history, surpassing the Exxon Valdez disaster.
Oil would continue to spew into the Gulf for nearly three months after the Deepwater Horizon explosion. The underwater well wasn't successfully capped until July 15. A permanent cement plug was put in place on September 19.