Putting all opinions aside (educated or not =) ), the growing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a serious concern for Bay County and the beaches of Panama City Beach. Rather than force you to read through this whole post just to find out what you are really wanting to know, I’ll save you a bit of time. More information is below if you want it, otherwise:
As of right now, there IS NO OIL on or near the beaches of Panama City Beach. In addition, as of right now, we are not within the “area of uncertainty” with no expectation of oil hitting our shores – today.
Check after the break for resources on how to track the spill, what Bay County is doing to prepare and what will happen if we do enter the “area of uncertainty”.
First, let me explain what the Area of Uncertainty is. As I understand it, the Area of Uncertainty is the area in the Gulf of Mexico in which the oil spill could enter within 72 hours – otherwise known as the projected trajectory.
At a press briefing this morning at the Bay County EOC (emergency operations center) it was confirmed that no oil, sheen or tar balls have reached our shores. Bay County is taking reports of “odors” very seriously as well, responding with monitoring equipment to determine the toxicity levels of any odors reported. As of right now, we have no documented cases of oil odors in our area that are stemmed from the Deep Horizon oil spill.
As of right now, there have been some shoreline impacts to areas to the west in Louisiana. Over the weekend there were reports of oil impact as far east as Dauphin Island. However, we have some inside sources that have said there was no oil on the shoreline there. But, this brings up an interesting topic of discussion. In many cases, there just isn’t any way for us (or many other news organizations) to verify reports of oil or tar balls reaching shorelines. I have read several articles that have said anything from small tar balls to thick sludge hitting the shores of Dauphin Island. Yet, this morning I received an email from someone on Dauphin Island that said there was no oil there right now. So. . . if anyone has some videos taken over the weekend in Dauphin, showing no oil, please post a link to them in the comments section below.
As far as Panama City Beach is concerned, we still have no oil here, and frankly our waters are looking amazing right now.
Bay County has been preparing for the worst. With over 28,000 feet of boom already deployed in Bay County with more on the way. As far as the effectiveness of the boom, pray for calm seas.
On a daily basis, local authorities are meeting at the EOC at 10 am for a private “official” briefing to review the EOC Incident Action Plan, to review the current status of the oil spill, to go over County plans from that point forward and discuss the growing “area of uncertainty”.
Vani Rao, the BP representative that was assigned to our area was in attendance. She informed the media of an Outreach Center that BP was opening within the next two days in the St. Andrew area of Panama City. We’ll have an address and more information on that outreach center when it is opened. We’ve been asked to report that the outreach center WILL NOT be a claims center, despite local media reports otherwise. Rao said that the presence of BP in our area will serve three purposes:
- Provide Training – will serve as a liaison for training sessions that will be held at Gulf Coast Community College. There is a training session tonight at 6 pm and more in the near future.
- Have a local presence – Rao said that her goal with the local outreach center was to provide a place for people to come express anxiety, ask questions, get updates on what BP is doing.
- Participate in local meetings – This way BP has a local person in Panama City to answer questions, reflect concerns and be a “direct link” to BP.
Also, interestingly enough, when asked, I was told that the stipulation in the contract that forced volunteers to waive future right of claim towards BP was eliminated completely. Vani said that any volunteers that are contracted by BP will still have right to place claim against them in the future if they see fit.
We have been told that if you want to volunteer for clean up, the official route to take is to contact the American Red Cross.
So, here are some resources:
- NWFL Panhandle Volunteer Beach Rescue Group Facebook page
- Deepwater Horizon Response’s Facebook Page
- News related to incident from USCGNews
- Information on the actual rig that was destroyed.
- Deepwater Horizon’s Wikipedia Page.
- Live webcam – on Regency Towers at the east end of Panama City Beach
- More information on what Bay County is doing about the oil spill
- Here’s a link from NOAA, updated daily, about the oil spill. Scroll down and look for: “Current Trajectory Maps“. Below that are the 24, 48, and 72 hour trajectory maps.
You can also keep an eye on our Facebook fan page (http://facebook.com/pcbdaily) for live pictures while we are at the beach (I’m going this evening).
If you have any questions, Bay County has set up a call number for public inquiries: 850-248-6030.