Gulf oil spill targets Florida beaches as it nears loop current
New forecasts suggest that the loop current could carry the Gulf oil spill to Florida beaches within the next eight to 10 days. After that, it could reach the Atlantic Ocean.
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Last week, Crist issued an order to accelerate staging areas for 19 coastal counties. On Monday, he organized a council of attorneys to explore possible legal or regulatory actions should the oil cause havoc on the state coast.Skip to next paragraph
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“Since the first day [of the spill] we were anticipating it was coming a lot sooner than it did," says spokeswoman Jessi Freud. "It’s eight to 10 days away, but we’ve already acted like it’s coming the whole time."
On Tuesday, NOAA expanded the ban on commercial fishing in the Gulf. To date, the ban affects 19 percent of federal waters in the region. The US Food and Drug Administration is starting to test seafood from both inside and outside the closed areas to monitor possible toxicity.
Florida beaches safe? Check the webcam.
Florida tourism officials shifted summer campaigns immediately upon learning the news. Tourism is the state’s largest industry and is responsible for generating more than $60 billion dollars annually, says Kathy Torian, corporate communications manager for Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing organization.
Ms. Torian said the agency set up a special website where visitors can monitor the beaches in real time and view uploaded photos by recent visitors that show that coastal recreation is alive and well.
A $500,000 summer advertising campaign is being retooled to promote the website and emphasize Florida is “not covered in oil,” Torian says. Crist also released $2 million in emergency funds to create new broadcast and online spots to keep the campaign running. On Tuesday, BP awarded the state a $25 million grant for additional state tourism efforts.
Even with increased financial muscle, it is difficult to sway visitors when so much remains uncertain. Torian says the official state position to report on how the coasts are faring 72 hours into the future. “That’s as much information anyone is willing to say with certainty,” she says.
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