On Tuesday, April 20, an offshore oil drilling platform, Deepwater Horizon, exploded in the Gulf of Mexico near Louisiana. The rig, owned by Transocean Ltd, was under contract to BP.
U.S. Coast Guard official's say the magnitude of the oil spill is astronomical; to give you an idea, 210,000 gallons of oil is oozing into the Gulf of Mexico a day, that's 5,000 barrels of oil per day.
State and local emergency operations officials from Mississippi, Alabama and Florida are working in conjunction with the U.S. Coast Guard and British Petroleum to stop the flow of this oil.
Coast Guard officials tell us a 'dispersant' is being applied to the oil slick, which according to the Deep Water Horizon Response, the dispersement is reportedly being somewhat effective in controlling the spread of oil. Also, BP has deployed more than 41 miles of booms in Pensacola.
Capt. Mike Barker, Emergency Operations Public Safety Director, tells NewsChannel 7,” "From Pensacola they will start going east, from Panama City they will move west until they meet in the middle."
According to a press release by the DEP, "Booms are not a failsafe solution. They can become ineffective in high seas, strong winds or currents over one knot."
On Friday, Governor Charlie Crist declared a state of emergency for Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Bay and Gulf Counties. Monday morning, Governor Charlie Crist added more Florida counties to that list.
“I want us to be prepared and I don't want us to be on our heels, I want to make sure we're leaning forward. I want to make sure that we are in front of this thing as much as we can. We all know and understand, I'm sure, how precious our beaches are, how important our environment is to our economy. As the governor, I want to do everything in our power to have every asset available to us."
Although it is unclear exactly if and when the oil spill will make its way to the Florida coastline, emergency officials are not taking any chances and say they are preparing for the worst.
"Last week we began identifying places on the beach where we can place roll off dumpsters that can accept oil soaked sand, that is the worst case scenario,” said Mark Bowen, Chief of Emergency Services. “We've identified the areas of the beach that can be worked once a day with a front end loader to pick up sand."
Most panhandle counties including Bay and Walton have already set up a 24-hour a day citizen hotline. The Walton county citizen hotline number is 267-2000. If you want to volunteer for the clean-up effort, log onto the Walton County sheriff's office web site; you can find that link under the "Related Links" section.
-Get the latest information on Twitter: twitter.com/Oil_Spill_2010
-Florida State Emergency Information Line: (800) 342-3557
-BP Claims Line: (800) 440-0858
-Environmental hotline and community information: (866) 448-5816
-Wildlife distress hotline: (866) 557-1401
-Vessels of Opportunity (boats) program: (425) 745-8017
Those interested in volunteering can call the Panhandle Chapter of the American Red Cross at 763-6587. You can also send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org