Oil Spill Threatens Florida, Other Gulf States

The Loop Current in the Gulf
An illustration of the Loop Current in the Gulf of Mexico.
TAMPA (2010-4-26) -

It remains unclear whether an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico will come ashore, but if it does, beaches anywhere from Pensacola to Louisiana could be affected.

Response teams in the Gulf of Mexico are trying to contain oil from that rig that exploded last week off the coast of Louisiana.

On Sunday, officials said about 1,000 barrels of oil a day was leaking into the Gulf. The oil slick has spread to an area of more than 600 square miles.

The Coast Guard expects the oil slick to remain at least 30 miles offshore for the next three days.

But after that, it's unclear where it may come ashore. Environmental officials from Louisiana to Florida's panhandle are getting prepared.

University of South Florida researcher Robert Weisberg says the changeable weather at this time of year may help keep the oil at bay.

"The nice thing about the winds is that they may be blowing in one direction for a day or two, but then they reverse and go elsewhere," he said.

"So the winds would have to blow steadily in a given direction for quite some time before we really move oil from where the spill occurred to the beaches," Weisberg added.

Meanwhile, officials at BP say they're trying to lower a dome-like structure over the well to capture the oil and funnel it to a collection tank.

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