That’s a good question, and I guess the answer depends on which facts you believe. In the beginning we were told the spill was leaking about 1,000 barrels per day, and just this past week we’ve been told it is now 35,000- 60,000 barrels per day, which translates into 1.5 million gallons to 2.5 million gallons per day. The truth is BP hasn’t been very concerned with educating us on the true facts nor the scope of the problem in the Gulf.
I’ve been watching a lot of TV on the issue and reading articles and it appears that many experts believe SW Florida is located in what they call a “Dead Zone, or Forbidden Zone”. This is a confusing term because they also call the panhandle a dead zone because of the impact of oil and its effect on wildlife caught up in the oil. The “Forbidden Zone” they refer to in SW Florida has to do with currents, and the fact many experts believe SW Florida will be protected by these currents from the oil.
In fact, Dr. Jeff Masters who created Weather Underground wrote a blog article on how SW Florida is protected. He writes “the west coast of Florida from Tampa Bay southwards to the Everglades is at minimal risk of receiving oil from surface currents. It appears the ocean side of Key West as well as the East coast of Florida is at more risk than SW Florida due to the currents and land configuration.
So is SW Florida completely safe from oil? That answer is probably not. There is still a risk of a hurricane or tropical storm blowing oil into SW Florida, although not likely. Most likely a tropical system would help blow oil away from SW Florida. Dr Masters also writes that the protection in the “Forbidden Zone” only holds true for surface oil, and if in fact there are underwater plumes, this oil could get caught up in the Loop Current and could make its way anywhere really. Again, more likely would be the sensitive areas of the Keys and up the East coast.
The larger risk to SW Florida is the “Perception” that oil has hit, and this affects tourism and the economy. News reports indicate hotel bookings are down across the state as many people believe oil has hit, or will hit very soon and they’re afraid to book travel. The Reality is oil has not hit anywhere close to SW Florida, and likely will not anytime soon, if ever. Of course, misleading facts from BP and the government do little to soothe people’s fears, so their perception becomes their reality.
The reality is oil may not ever come here. The reality is oil has already hit other places, and likely will hit more places. Once word reaches out that SW Florida has been unaffected, other places loss could become our gain. My gut tells me nobody wins though, as tourists tend to shut off and believe the entire state is under siege. It’s possible in the future tourists will want to go where there was no oil, and that could become a future selling point for SW Florida down the road.
In the meantime, I think we just need to keep the word out that the oil is not here, is not close to here, and our beaches are safe and a fun place to vacation. SW Florida remains home to fantastic fishing, awesome beaches, excellent real estate values and a high quality of life.
NOAA Interactive Mapping Tool of Spill One of My Favorites