Jun 4, 2010 9:28:32 PM
Tar balls hit Pensacola, Florida
Updated June 7, 2:15pm EST
Oil has reached Florida. Oil tar balls washed up ashore at the west end of Santa Rosa Island, a Gulf island off of Pensacola, Florida, Friday morning. Warren Bielenberg of the Gulf Islands National Seashore told me by phone that visitors first spotted it, and he walked out to see it. ‘I counted nine in a ten-foot part of the beach — it was foamy, mushy, the biggest about three-by-four inches.’ According to the Pensacola News Journal, about 50 tar balls were collected in all.
Laura Lee at the Pensacola Visitors Center said the beaches are still open, and people are still enjoying it. She said by phone, ‘BP crews took away the tar balls this morning, and I’ve not heard of any more sightings.’ You can see live web cams and posted photos from the beach at VisitPensacola and the state’s VisitFlorida websites.
At this time of year, Lee says, about 6000 of Pensacola’s 9000 rooms are occupied, or about 14,000 people. Throughout May, hotels have been loosening cancellation policies (happening in other parts of the Gulf too) — either allowing money-back guarantees if oil hits during vacations, or 24-hour cancellations without penalty.
Last weekend’s Fiesta of Five Flags still went forward, with sand sculptures, parades and re-enactments on the beach. Monday a national park volunteer from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, told me she could see ‘more oil’ on the island’s beaches, ‘on shore in pieces, not sheets.’ She said a volunteer crew of 1500 were cleaning the beach. ‘Everywhere you look, you see them working.’
If you are in the Gulf and want to either help an oil-hit beach or ready another, there are several volunteering options. The Louisiana Gulf Response seeks volunteers to clean-up beaches and clean animals, though isn’t accepting volunteers immediately; Volunteer Florida lists options by county (Pensacola is in Escambia County.)
Also, the Unified Area Command (the combined efforts of federal agencies including the Coast Guard, BP and some contractors) has organized volunteer service that already has up to 6000 volunteers. One volunteer Mike (he couldn’t give his last name) said by phone, ‘We have volunteers helping handle wildlife in affected areas, or pre-clean beaches by putting in boom (blockades) offshore or helping remove animals in some places.’ Check Deepwater Horizon Response website for more information or call 866-448-5816 if you want to help.
To donate to affected national parks, text “PARKS” to 90999.