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Officials Continue to Watch Oil Spill, But No Near-Term Impacts to the Keys Expected

Image 1 - Official NOAA trajectory graphics show forecast positioning of the oil slick for Monday, May 17. Graphic courtesy NOAA.

Official NOAA trajectory graphics show forecast positioning of the oil slick for Monday, May 17. Graphic courtesy NOAA.

Image 2 - Official NOAA trajectory graphics show forecast positioning of the oil slick for Tuesday, May 18. Graphic courtesy NOAA.

Official NOAA trajectory graphics show forecast positioning of the oil slick for Tuesday, May 18. Graphic courtesy NOAA.

Image 3 - Graphic shows the eastern Gulf of Mexico with the approximate location of the Transocean/BP oil accident site and the approximate location of the Gulf Loop Current and the Florida Keys. Base graphic courtesy oilspill.fsu.edu.

Graphic shows the eastern Gulf of Mexico with the approximate location of the Transocean/BP oil accident site and the approximate location of the Gulf Loop Current and the Florida Keys. Base graphic courtesy oilspill.fsu.edu.

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May 16, 2010

Officials at the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, the U.S. Coast Guard and Monroe County Emergency Management continue to monitor developments at the site of the Transocean/BP Deepwater Horizon explosion and subsequent oil leaks in the northern Gulf of Mexico.

According to federal and state officials, as of Saturday, there are no impacts forecast for at least the next 72 hours to any part of the state of Florida and a minimum of 10 days for the Keys, if not longer.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) models, prepared through Monday, show the oil slick still positioned to the north of the Gulf's Loop Current.

As of Saturday, according to the Florida Office of Emergency Management, the southern edge of the oil slick was estimated to be about 35 miles to the north of the loop current.

The Gulf Loop Current is a clockwise current that carries water from the Yucatan Channel north into the Gulf of Mexico, then back down south off Florida's west coast, past the Dry Tortugas and intersecting into the Gulf Stream.

In the Transocean/BP spill, the current plays a crucial role because of concerns if oil gets into the Loop Current, it could be swept to the south, possibly into or around the Keys and possibly carried by the Gulf Stream to other areas of Florida and the U.S. east coast.

If oil enters the current, the travel time for it to get to the Dry Tortugas vicinity should be 10 to 14 days, oceanographers say. The Tortugas begin about 70 miles to the west of Key West.

Currently, there are no advisories recommending against travel to the Florida Keys or any other precautions advising not to engage in fishing, diving, swimming or other water sports. Florida Keys-waters seafood is safe to eat.

Federal, state and local environmental and emergency management agencies have met several times to review and tweak mitigation strategies if a response to an oil threat is required for the Keys.

Although NOAA officials continue to research potential impacts, any oil reaching Keys waters would likely be physically different than it is in northern Gulf waters.

That means it would be highly unlikely that large “rivers” of oil would impact the Keys. More likely, experts said, the impacts would be in the form of tar balls. While arrival of oil in any form is unacceptable, it seems those impacts would be less harmful to the environment and likely easier to mitigate.

All threats to the Keys will likely cease once the oil leaks, 5,000 feet on the bottom of the sea, are plugged.

Additional details on efforts to mitigate the incident are on these official Web sites:

deepwaterhorizonresponse.com
noaa.gov
epa.gov/bpspill

Florida Oil Spill Hotline (8 a.m.- 6 p.m.): 1-888-337-3569

More than 40 web cams streaming live video from the Keys’ waters, shorelines and area attractions are also available for the public to view.

Posted On: May 16, 2010

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