The Monroe County Tourist Development Council has added more elements to its website to communicate accurate information regarding the relationship of the Transocean/BP oil spill in the northern Gulf of Mexico to the Florida Keys.
On the www.fla-keys.com home page is a link to a special spill section, as well as a prominent connection to live webcams, so potential visitors can see the area for themselves. The current “Video of the Week” feature shows Key West Mayor Craig Cates correcting misperceptions that the Florida Keys & Key West have already been impacted by the Gulf oil spill.
“We know the travel consumer is hungry for accurate information,” said TDC Director Harold Wheeler. “Ever since we posted the first spill-related news story on April 28, we’ve had more than 75,000 spill-related page views on our site.”
All information published is based on official authorities including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Coast Guard, Florida Division of Emergency Management and Monroe County Emergency Management.
The special spill section features 72-hour-in-advance oil slick trajectory graphics that can be enlarged and clearly show NOAA’s projected positions and oil densities in both the northern Gulf of Mexico and Loop Current.
The page also has a quick overview of the status of the Keys for visitors as well as links to resources for specific oil spill-related information.
News stories and a question-and-answer page regarding the Keys and the Gulf oil spill can be accessed from the special page.
Meanwhile, light oil sheen and isolated tar balls continue to remain significantly west of the Keys according to the latest NOAA trajectory models. Wednesday’s forecast shows oil residue to be positioned some 300 miles to the northwest of Key West.
On Saturday, at a special Key West City Commission meeting, federal officials expressed their confidence that with exposure to heat, weather, dispersants and evaporation, any of the oil sheen presently in the Gulf Loop Current that might get close to the Keys would likely transform into small tar balls. Tar balls, they said, would mean significantly fewer environmental consequences than aqueous oil.
"A (oil) sheen over time will break down, will become weathered (and) will evaporate." said Captain Pat DeQuattro of the U.S. Coast Guard Key West Sector. "If we’re to be impacted, it will more likely be tar balls."
Even if tar balls make their way into the Florida Straits they could be far enough offshore that they completely miss the Keys, officials added.
Spill-related websites, primarily focusing on affected areas, include:
TDC website with spill-related information for visitors: http://www.fla-keys.com