Another interactive web tool, this one developed by the State Emergency Response Team (SERT) for the Florida Division of Emergency Management's FloridaDisaster.org, says today:
Winds over Florida waters are expected to be out of the northwest in the morning, shifting out of a general west direction in the afternoon from Wednesday through Friday. Winds should be 15 knots or less within 60 miles of the coastline each day, with waves less than 3 feet.In another section of the web site the state division says:
Rain chances will begin to increase again on Thursday and Friday to around 30-40% each day through the weekend. Heat indices will be near 100-105 degrees along the shoreline through the next several days, though some isolated areas may reach as high as 108.
Although sporadic sightings of tar balls may continue, Florida’s shoreline is not expected to receive additional impacts over the next 72 hours.2. Towing Boom.
Nevertheless, yesterday we saw one small boat hauling about 300-400 feet of boom behind it, heading for the entrance to Pensacola Bay (click above). Nearby, two shrimp boats looked like they were getting into position to skim any oil.
3. Disappearing Tourists.
Jim Snyder of Bloomberg News reported late last night that although only Florida's four panhandle counties have been directly affected by BP's oil spill, "Florida’s claims for spill damage are surpassing those from other Gulf States that have suffered more direct physical damage."
Florida filed 32,762 claims through last week, topping No. 2 Louisiana by more than two thousand, said Scott Dean, a spokesman for [BP].From all appearances, it looks like claims by Floridians soon will be mounting even higher. One business journal reports that many more Florida business owners "have BP in their sights and plan to seek compensation." What's more, it appears these are all businesses based in south Florida, which has yet to see any direct impact from the oil spill. The report is based on data collected from "businesses... located in Sarasota, Lee/Collier, Manatee, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties."
Because of Florida’s heavier dependence on beach tourism, it will take the biggest hit in dollars from the spill, a study commissioned by the U.S. Travel Association found.
The state will lose $7.6 billion, a 13 percent decline, if the accident’s impact lasts 15 months and $18.6 billion, a drop of 14 percent, if it lingers for 36 months, according to the study by Oxford Economics, a U.K. economics firm. The percentage declines will be greater for Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, Oxford Economics said.
4. Disappearing Claims.
Good luck with that. As the Sun-Sentinel reports the newly appointed administrator of the $20 billion BP trust fund, Kenneth Feinberg, told Congress yesterday that while public "perception" may be a compensable injury for a business that is losing tourist income, "every business that loses money as an indirect result of the spill may not be compensated."
[T]hose more directly affected and relatively close to the spill would be eligible.The Sun-Sentinel's sense of this is that "businesses along the western Panhandle will get some BP money because of the devastation to its tourism industry. Those elsewhere in Florida -- even if they lose prospective visitors -- probably will not see compensation."
"I will have to draw some lines on eligibility," [Feinberg] said. "The lines will be based on proximity to the beach and the (individual’s or company’s) dependence on natural resources for fishing or whatever."
"Actual physical damage to property is not required," he said.
"If the perception harms a hotel on the beach, even if there’s no damage, that’s compensable. It’s another thing if the perception harms a hotel 70 miles inland."
As for those who have weekend water-front cabins or other property within the oil zone, they also likely have a long and probably fruitless struggle ahead. One example was mentioned by NPR last night:
Preston Mayeaux, 59, knows where he would draw the line.To add to the attenuated nature of some claims is the fact that the economy was a mess well before the BP oil spill.
He walked into a BP claims center this week seeking compensation because, he says, the property value has plummeted at the small cabin he owns on Bayou John Charles. He says he can no longer enjoy summer weekends on the oily water.
"I lost my golden years that I wanted to be able to go to my fishing camp, and how do you put a price on that?" Mayeaux says. "I don't know how you put a price on that."
Apparently, neither did the BP claims official who Mayeaux says gave him a lot more pushback than sympathy. If BP's recklessness caused the spill, then he says people like him should be compensated.
"We know there’s been an impact and loss," says one south Florida restauranteur, "but how do you show a difference when you’re measuring against a year of recession? Last year was such a bad year."
5. Disappearing Oil.
Not only tourists have disappeared. Apparently, so has about half of BP's oil spill.
We continue to find tarballs in sargasso washed up on the beach, or half-buried in the sand next to a cement piling at Ft. Pickens Park (see left) on the west end of Pensacola Beach -- just steps from a clean-up crew.
But over the length and breadth of the Gulf the new question seems to be, as David A. Fahrenthold and Leslie Tamura phrase the question for WaPo, "Where did all the oil go?"
Up to 4 million barrels (167 million gallons), the vast majority of the spill, remains unaccounted for in government statistics. Some of it has, most likely, been cleaned up by nature. Other amounts may be gone from the water, but they could have taken on a second life as contaminants in the air, or in landfills around the Gulf Coast.NOAA's administrator, the credibility-impaired Jane Lubchenco, says it's neither gone nor killing the Gulf. "The truth is in the middle," she asserts.
And some oil is still out there -- probably mixed with chemical dispersants. Some scientists have described it floating in underwater clouds, which one compared to a toxic fog.
Relying on the latest estimate of the leak's total volume -- 60,000 barrels (2.5 million gallons) per day, at most -- then 5.2 million barrels may have escaped over 86 days. Of that, about 1.2 million barrels were either siphoned, burned or skimmed.
That would leave slightly less than 4 million barrels missing.
The best-case scenario is that much of this amount has been eaten by the gulf's natural stock of oil-munching microbes. Several scientists have said they are concerned that these microbes could cause their own problems, depleting the oxygen that gulf creatures need in the water.
It looks like we're about to witness a rematch between NOAA scientists versus the rest of the scientific community.
NOAA scientists have offered upbeat assessments of the oil that remains below the ocean's surface, saying they've seen significant concentrations only near the wellhead.WaPo quotes Prof. Caz Taylor of Tulane University as saying, "We're so unsure of what's going on at this point," including whether the oil might hurt creatures that eat the crabs, Taylor said.
But other scientists, working for Gulf Coast universities, have reported finding large "clouds" of oil miles away from the site.
"The worrying thing," she adds, "is that we're seeing these droplets everywhere that we're sampling," from Galveston Bay, Tex., to Pensacola, Fla.
6. Disappearing BeachBlogger.
Speaking of disappearing, we'll be taking a break for a few days and leaving all the electronics and phones and tarballs behind. We'll be back toward the end of next week.