I received a phone call earlier this week from a friend who asked if it was still okay for him and his family to be at our annual 4th of July cookout because they had canceled their previously planned vacation to Pensacola, Florida. Oil was washing in on the beaches, he told me, so they had decided to spend a few days at Virginia Beach and accept our invitation to celebrate the Fourth at our house.
The reaction to his news was a collective groan and something along the lines of, "Uh-oh. Tourism is going to take a hit down there especially with the holiday coming up."
Therefore, I wasn't surprised when I heard that Pensacola's beautiful white beaches have now been closed to swimmers as oil from the spill in the Gulf of Mexico has begun to wash ashore.
Breitbart is reporting that swimming is forbidden and there are health concerns with oil in the water and staining the beaches. Sunbathers are still permitted on the beaches but not in the water.
Florida Governor Charlie Crist's office has been keeping an update about conditions in the Panhandle and has reported that tar balls, crude oil tar patties, and mousse have been found on Panama City Beach, Fort Walton Beach, Pensacola beaches, and throughout northwest Florida.
Florida is aggressively attacking the problem with cleanup crews to lessen the impact on their environment and economy. Tourism is a $65 billion dollar-a-year industry that generates 1 million jobs. Vacationers can check beach conditions by viewing web cams and real-time photos at Visit Florida.
Cross-posted at The Washington Examiner