The past 2 months have been some of the most frustrating of my television career because of the leak that continues to flow in the Gulf of Mexico. From the oiled images of the birds and animals to the heart breaking stories of the fisherman whose careers and livelihoods are now in jeopardy.
People have asked me what it is like to live here in NW Florida over the past few months and the best way I can describe is it is like bleeding yourself with a pin prick. It is painfully slow. We talked about the oil for a good 50 days before Florida was even impacted... and it was not until last week when Okaloosa County (our westernmost county in our coverage area) was impacted. I had many folks calling and e-mailing me telling me that it was a non-story and that we would never see it. I only wish they were right. It was only a matter of time before our luck ran out.
The range of emotions have been many and I know many people are already exhausted and the impacts are just starting here. At first it was 1000 barrels a day, then 2000, then maybe it was 5000, then 18,000, and now it is 35-60k barrels of our spewing into the Gulf of Mexico each day. Currently collection efforts are getting about 22-28k barrels. That means 7-38k barrels spew and continue to make the largest ecological disaster in the United States worse!!! We went through the Top Hat, the Top Kill, and now the LMRP Cap. We have seen and heard about tar balls, oil sheen, mouse, etc. Our vocabularies have certainly been increased.
While my income has not been directly impacted yet... I know so many of my friends here in NW Florida have been directly impacted because they can't fish, or they can't sell a house because the buyer is nervous, or people are not making home improvements until the threat ends. Will my friends get their money and how long will it take? What about the restaurants? They can barely make it year to year... what about now?
We all know BP has very deep pockets... but you have to wonder how deep are they? We are a good 2 months away from the oil being shut off... let alone the months or years it may take to clean this mess up! The impacts on all of us will only get worse.
So, although 64 days are in the books... we continue to live 72hrs at a time with the oil forecasts. For now... the news is kinda good... SE Winds could keep the oil away from Panama City, Port St. Joe, and Apalachicola. It could get closer to Seaside, Destin, and Okaloosa Island.
The biggest fly in the ointment over the next few months may be the development of tropical systems. Here is what I see as possible impacts with tropical systems... not all of which are bad.
1. The storms will help disperse the oil by spreading it out and making it easier to biodegrade (good)
2. The storms will push oil into our bays, rivers, and coastal dune lakes which we are currently protecting (bad)
3. The storms will stop the collection process (bad)
Right now we are carefully watching an area of disturbed weather in the Caribbean. Most models bring this low into the Gulf by the weekend. Some even make it a major hurricane! While that forecast is certainly very suspect. It is a reminder that we will soon have other threats in the Gulf other than oil.
Like I said it could be a long time before we know the final impacts of this oil disaster. The good news is that this oil will bio-degrade more easily. It is not the refined oil like that that leaked from the Exxon Valdez in the 1980s, but when will the end come? When can we focus all our energy on the clean-up rather than spending so much time on stopping the leak and cleaning up?
Rest assured... we will continue to keep you posted with the very latest on the disaster in the Gulf. If you ever have any questions please do not hesitate to ask. firstname.lastname@example.org
Chief Meteorologist, WJHG- TV