Gov. Charlie Crist expanded a declared a state of emergency Monday, May 3 to Sarasota and Manatee counties, as well as 11 additional Gulf Coast counties as the result of the threat of oil leaking from the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform and well off the coast of Louisiana.
The Panhandle is the most likely Florida region to be affected by the oil spill, according to a prepared statement by Mote President Dr. Kumar Mahadevan. If the spill is not contained, oil could travel south toward the Florida Keys and then along the Atlantic Coast or head to Southwest Florida. As of Tuesday, May 4, Mote’s Beach Conditions Report contained no reports of oil on Florida’s beaches.
According to an e-mail that Town Manager Bruce St. Denis sent to the Longboat Key Town Commission May 3, town staff is monitoring potential impacts of Deepwater Horizon through both Sarasota and Manatee county emergency-operations centers and has notified its debris management contractor, AshBritt Inc., to be on standby.
Katherine Songster, public relations manager at the Longboat Key Club and Resort, said that resort officials were monitoring the situation closely although the Key Club has not received any cancellations as the result of the spill, Songster said. But reports of an oil spill affecting any part of the state can affect tourism throughout Florida, because visitors may not be able to distinguish between the impacted areas and those that are not affected.
“We see that even during hurricane season,” Songster said.
At Save Our Seabirds, Executive Director Lee Fox was notified last week by BP and the U.S. Coast Guard to be ready to deploy at 24 hours notice to lead wildlife-rescue efforts wherever needed in the state.
“It could hit anywhere,” Fox said. “Everything depends on the weather and the wind.”
As of Monday, Fox had vans filled with supplies and a team of seven volunteers ready to travel wherever they are needed, along with 600 volunteers willing to help out locally.
According to Fox, the spill’s timing is especially bad for wildlife, because it occurred during nesting season for birds and sea turtles and could make it difficult for birds to return to their nests when they leave to catch food, which could cause hatchlings to starve.
“It’s a vicious circle,” Fox said. “This couldn’t have happened at a worse time.”
For information about volunteering or other ways to help affected wildlife, go to saveourseabirds.org or call 388-3010.
Contact Robin Hartill at email@example.com.
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