The Florida Keys & Key West tourism council has added more elements to its website to communicate accurate information about 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 and a prominent connection to webcams, so potential visitors can see the area live. The current home page video features Key West Mayor Craig Cates correcting misperceptions that the Florida Keys & Key West have already been impacted by the oil spill.
“Our economy has been effected by this because of the perception that the Keys has oil on it or tar balls coming up from the spill,” Cates says in the video. “We do not!
“Key West is open for business,” he added.
Keys tourism council director Harold Wheeler said travel consumers seek credible information.
“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,” Wheeler said.
Information on the website comes from official authorities, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. Coast Guard, and is updated daily.
The special spill section features 72-hour advance oil slick trajectory graphics that show NOAA’s projections and oil densities in the northern Gulf of Mexico and Loop Current.
The page also has an overview of the Keys’ status for visitors, links to resources for oil spill-related information, news stories and a question-and-answer page.
Meanwhile, light oil sheen and isolated tar balls remain west of the Keys, according to the latest NOAA trajectory models. Wednesday’s forecast shows oil residue some 300 miles northwest of Key West.
At a Key West City Commission meeting Saturday federal officials expressed confidence that with exposure to heat, weather, dispersants and evaporation, any oil currently in the Gulf Loop Current likely would transform into small tar balls before reaching the Keys. Tar balls, they said, would have 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 reach the Florida Straits they could be far enough offshore to completely miss the Keys, officials added.