As Oil Spill Threatens Florida, Beach Lovers Say Goodbye

Pensacola Beach
Pensacola Beach brags that it has the whitest sand in Florida. But the oil spill could change that.
PENSACOLA (2010-5-3) -

Hundreds of people are flocking to Florida’s northern panhandle beaches -- some to protect them, others to take one good last look.

Forecasters say oil from that spill in the Gulf could hit Florida's northern panhandle sometime this week, and most at risk are the sugar-sand beaches surrounding Pensacola.

Dawn Coleman of Pensacola said she wanted to enjoy this beach with her family -- maybe for the last time for a long time.

"We thought this could the last day we could see the beach without any oil on it, so we brought our children out," she said.

She said the oil spill was absolutely preventable.

“I don't think we should be drilling at all. I don't think the oil rigs should exist out there. But I also think that anything with regulation or just inspections would have helped prevent it at least," she said.

Bruce Parris, general manager for the dock on Pensacola Beach, says customers are collecting the area's famed sugar-white sand into jars and bags -- a memento in case oil fouls those beaches later this week.

“The biggest concern for all of us is the fact that it continues to flow. It's not going to be like a ship turning over where there's one flow of oil that hits our beaches, and hopefully we can clean it up. It's just going to be a continual thing until they can find a way to stop it,” he said.

If they can't stop it, researchers say there's a good chance oil could get caught up in the Loop current and carried past the keys and up the Atlantic side of Florida as well.

Hundreds of volunteers scoured the beaches near Pensacola Sunday to remove trash and other debris that could make cleaning up any oil more difficult. Escambia County official Greg Strader helped oversee the effort.

“We have volunteers from different organizations, businesses, community respondents that are here to help insure we protect our beautiful beaches to the greatest extent we can,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is getting ready to clean birds and other animals coated by the oil. They're asking anyone who comes across oil-coated wildlife to call them -- cleaning can be dangerous to both the animal and would-be Good Samaritan.

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