HARI SREENIVASAN: A massive containment dome made its way 5,000 feet to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico today to try and cap the well that's been leaking for 17 days.
NewsHour correspondent Tom Bearden has our report.
TOM BEARDEN: The 100-ton concrete and steel box began its long descent into the water last night. Thick, brown oil adhered to its side as it traveled through the Gulf waters.
BP hopes the dome will be able to capture up to 85 percent of the crude oil still flowing from the well and funnel it up to a waiting tanker as soon as Sunday. A top BP executive gave this update.
DOUG SUTTLES, COO, BP: Over the weekend, we expect to connect that dome to the drill ship Enterprise, at which time, hopefully the beginning of next week, we'll begin to start evacuate the oil from the seabed and up to the surface.
TOM BEARDEN: -- the executive gave this update.
DOUG SUTTLES, COO, BP: Over the weekend, we expect to connect that dome to the drillship enterprise, at which time -- hopefully the beginning of next week -- we'll begin to start to evacuate the oil from the seabed up to the surface.
As Admiral Andrews stated, we should recognize this hasn't been done before and we should expect it will undoubtedly have some complications.
TOM BEARDEN: Efforts to stem the leak grew more urgent as the huge slick began lapping the shores of Louisiana's Chandeleur barrier islands yesterday.
Today, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal flew over those islands to observe the damage firsthand. Eyewitnesses have reported seabirds diving into oily waters and dead jellyfish washing up on the beaches.
The oil still hasn't crept as far as Alabama, but workers are still deploying more booms to try to keep it out of Mobile Bay.
The edge of the slick is now about 30 miles offshore and stationary for now, but forecasts are it could reach the beaches in three or four days, depending on the weather.
It's a beautiful spring day on Dauphin Island on the south coast of Alabama. There are a plenty of people on the beach, but we're told there ought to be a lot more of them.
Several we spoke with are also concerned this may be the last time they'll be able to come here for quite a while.
Sonia Summer has been coming to these shores for 15 years.
SONIA SUMMER, resident: I am concerned about it, mainly for the wildlife and the marine life. The beaches won't be white but I'm sure it will come back. They'll get it fixed.
TOM BEARDEN: Jeff Villmer and his family are visiting here from St.
Louis, and he worries about the long-term impact on tourism.
JEFF VILLMER, tourist: It's tragic. That's really the worst part. We actually started to smell some of the oil this morning, in the breeze, I guess because it's blowing inland. But I think people are afraid to come down. So it's all going to depend on how well they can prove the cleanup.
TOM BEARDEN: At the west end of the island, National Guardsmen were extending shoreline defenses, filling containers with sand in hopes of keep the oil from getting too far inland.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Also today, federal regulators said they are examining the effectiveness of blowout preventers on offshore oil wells.
They are the last-resort cutoff valves that failed to work in the Deepwater Horizon incident. A new safety board established at the Interior Department will lead the investigation.
Police closed part of Times Square in New York City briefly today after a suspicious white cooler was found. Police said it was just a few blocks from where a failed car bomb was discovered last Saturday. But on closer inspection, the cooler contained water bottles and books.
In the Saturday case, the Associated Press has learned investigators are searching for a money courier who may have helped Faisal Shahzad finance the plot.
Shahzad is the Pakistani-born American citizen who was charged on Tuesday.
Today, the head of the U.S. Central Command, General David Petraeus, said he thought the suspect was a lone wolf terrorist who did not work with others.
Two more NATO troops have died in Afghanistan. Officials announced both died yesterday, one in an insurgent attack in the south, the other in a rocket attack in the east. There was no word on the victims'
Ten NATO service members have been killed so far in May.
Back in the United States, a widespread recall was issued for romaine lettuce amid fears it could be contaminated with E. coli bacteria. The lettuce was sold in 23 states and the District of Columbia under the Freshway and Imperial Sysco brands.
At least 19 people have become sick; three of them were hospitalized with life-threatening symptoms.
The Foodd and Drug Administration is focusing its investigation on an Arizona farm as the possible source of the outbreak.
Those are some of the day's main stories. I'll be back at the end of the program with a preview of what you'll find tonight on the NewsHour's web site. But for now back to Margaret.