As reported from the Bay County Public Information Office:
Crews will begin removing the boom in the St. Andrew Pass on Wednesday morning, after state Department of Environmental Protection Agency officials determined the state would fund the effort.
“The chance of any surface oil making it here is almost zero,” Bay County Emergency Services Chief Mark Bowen said, highlighting that the purpose of the boom was always to fend off surface oil threatening the bay — it would have been ineffective against subsurface oil or tarballs. “Surface oil arriving here would be unthinkable at this point. The imposition of the pass project to shipping traffic and recreational boaters far outweighs the minimal risk of any surface oil.”
Gulf World Marine Park has had great success in de-oiling sea turtles and leading the way for them to return to their natural habitat over the last couple months. The only de-oiling facility for sea turtles in Northwest Florida, they’ve seen hundreds of turtles come through their program since the Gulf oil spill crisis, but have seen it slow down considerably over the last couple weeks. Right now, they have around 60 turtles that are preparing to be released back into the wild. They just did a huge release yesterday of 23 turtles.
This past weekend was probably one of the biggest weekends Panama City Beach has ever seen. I speak not in magnitude of tourist dollars being spent, but in global fame enjoying the same amenities that hundreds of thousands enjoy every year. Regardless of opinion of the visitors, Panama City Beach is definitely on the map now. Panama City Beach was THE Presidential buzz last weekend.
Pack your beach towels and sun screen and get down to the beach because we’ve been almost completely oil free (other than sun tan oil) for more than a month and there is no projected impact in sight. We’ve been blessed with easterly winds which have kept the beaches of Panama City Beach of the plume projection models from NOAA.
Over the last several weeks, very sparse and scattered instances of tar balls have been reported and cleaned up along the beach. But, these instances have been so few that most people that have come down here to vacation have had no idea that there was ever anything foreign wash ashore. If you’ve been keeping an eye on our Facebook page, then you know that hundreds are posting their great experiences that they have had down here while on vacation.
More than half-way through the summer, BP has finally capped the spewing well in the Gulf of Mexico and is, at this point, preventing any more oil from spewing from the ruptured Deep Horizon Oil well 5,000 feet below the surface. There are reports that the capping has instigated a seepage of oil in other spots, which could be terrible if confirmed, but with the first of two relief wells almost complete and set to open in just a couple short weeks, officials are hopeful that there is an end in sight to this mess.
Over the last few weeks, very small quantities of oil product have been reported and cleaned up on Panama City Beach. And, when I say very small quantities, I mean so small that almost no one saw any oil wash up on the shores of Panama City Beach before it was cleaned up by the 700+ beach clean up workers that continue to patrol the beaches. In addition to the 700+ workers that are walking the beaches by day, there are around 250 walking the beaches at night.
As of July 14th, the oil plume was located 130 miles from Panama City Beach. At one point, it was as close as 20 miles off our coast. What this means is that for the next two to three weeks, our beaches are all but totally guaranteed to be oil free. This is great for the summer tourism season. Right now, we are well outside the NOAA 72 hour area of uncertainty.
With torrential rain and huge surf all week from the late hurricane Alex, spending time outside this week was almost as impossible as it was on the insanely hot days of last week. With that, minimal oil product has been reported or needing to be cleaned up on the beach in the last two weeks. The beaches have remained clean, and what product that has come ashore has been cleaned up within hours. Not once has landfall been that to where beach closure was warranted.
Easterly and southeasterly winds have continued to keep the plume away from us. As of right now, we are not within the NOAA projected 72 hour of uncertainty. This is good news for those that are wanting to come down for the Annual Fourth of July Celebrations that take place at Pier Park every year. At this point, all Florida beaches are open, and the beaches in Panama City Beach are looking amazing.
With winds predominantly from the east and south east, the plume and additional oil product has stayed away from us the last 10 days keeping the amount of oil product, including tarballs, sheen and other effects from the Deep Horizon Oil Spill off our beaches. Over the weekend, there was very few scattered debris with signs of oil on it reported in just a few areas on Panama City Beach. Very few tarballs have been reported in Panama City Beach in the last 10 days.
Right now, the forecast looks good for Fourth of July weekend.
Easterly and southeasterly winds have kept the oil spill plume away from us this week with nothing more than a few scattered pieces of oil soaked debris coming ashore up and down Panama City Beach. As recently as last weekend, we had landfall of tarballs from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that’s still discharging into the gulf.
Bay County is being very proactive in minimizing any impact that we may see from the oil spill in Panama City Beach and our surrounding areas. Efforts include building a complex boom gate system in the pass to limit any “product” from entering inland water ways, ordering 13 beach rakes (3 on their way, 10 more ordered), 4 skimmers working 7 miles off shore skimming product as it nears, and over 300 BP contractors are patrolling the beach non-stop surveying for any signs of oil making landfall. Over the last couple days, contractors have begun nighttime operations as well with over 1,000 more people ready to be deployed for cleanup efforts if and when needed.