Florida Emergency Preparation Area Expanded


Panhandle Florida beaches are sugary white, soft and often deserted

photo by Susan J. Young

Monday, Florida Governor Charlie Crist expanded the Sunshine State's emergency response scope related to the Deepwater Horizon oil rig incident. Response preparation now extends beyond several northern Panhandle counties southward to Florida's west central coast including the Tampa Bay area and Sarasota.

Visit Florida also added a visitor's advisory to its web site www.visitflorida.com. Currently, Visit Florida is telling potential visitors "there are no impacts to the state projected through Thursday." However, the site said the state "continues to make preparations to safeguard the state’s shoreline."

Individual tourism boards and CVBs within Florida also are developing ways to keep visitors and agents updated. The Beaches of South Walton, a popular Panhandle beach destination, has launched this web site for any updates related to the oil slick: http://bswupdate.com.

At this time, it is unknown whether any when any area of Florida will be impacted. In a conference call Monday afternoon, Florida Department of Environmental Protection officials assured Walton County's Emergency Operations Centers that they have protective booms staged in both Pensacola and Panama City; both are key tourism destinations.

Booms are being deployed at a rate of approximately 19,000 feet per day in those Panhandle areas. However, the weather has slowed boom deployment in the last 24 hours.

For now, Florida's beaches are clean, its sands white and welcoming. Stay tuned for additional updates.