Storm soaks PC, keeps boats in port

PANAMA CITY, FL - By Jim Wallace - bio | email 

Panama City, FL (WALB) –   Lots of rain at the Panama City Marina, the official BP staging center.  Thousands of feet of boom is ready to deploy.  But the boats that would pull that boom were driven back to the docks by the same storms that took the oil further from land.

Bay County emergency management officials flew seven miles out scouting and saw no sign of oil.  The Coast Guards best estimate is the nearest formation is 17 miles to the southeast. So they can hold off closing any ocean passes.

Thousands of feet of boom is ready to deploy, and Bay County emergency officials say they are bringing in more themselves, separate of BP.  Ready to protect their beaches and lagoons.

Bowen said that Florida is sending 70 to 80 National Guard Troops to Bay County this week, to train and be ready to assist when the oil reaches Panama City Beach.

Bay County emergency officials breathed a sigh of relief, as storms Sunday night and Monday helped their efforts keeping oil off the shore.

A seven mile flight out from Panama City Beach spotted no oil.  Coast Guard Boats says their best estimate is the nearest large formation is 17 miles offshore to the South West.

Jim Douglas from Louisville, Kentucky came down to sail, and the crisis for himself. "I hear the oil is bad for the boats, too."

Douglas said this stormy weather was enough for him, and he was headed home today.  BP has staged booms around the marina, but the storm left some of them bunched up in piles.

West of Destin emergency officials have closed the beach in Okaloosa County, keeping people out of the water, but they opened it again on Monday. Panama City Beach is open, and emergency officials say there is no health concerns for now.

Emergency officials say they know these storms that blew the oil out to sea, could change and drive it back onto the beach quickly.

So far the beach is wide open and officials say there is no health hazard from the oil here at Panama City Beach.  Still there are very few tourists on the beach, and what should be one of the busiest vacation times for the hotels and restaurants is a huge disappointment.

Bay County emergency officials said  that until the oil source at the doomed rig is stopped, they know that oil will reach Panama City Beach.  They just don't know when, but they say they are going to do all they can to keep it off as long as possible.

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