northern gulf of mexico oil spill update

Updated 8/16/2010


Mud injected injected two weeks ago in the Transocean/BP well and a tight-fitting cap on a failed blowout preventer continue to prevent new oil from gushing into the northern Gulf of Mexico. The "static kill" was completed early Wednesday morning, officials said, and is being monitored.  Next comes the "bottom kill," where a drilled relief well will be used to pump in mud and cement. Exact timing for completion of the "bottom kill," the final step, is not known, but officials targeted mid-August as the end date several months ago.

The Greater Fort Lauderdale area has not been physically impacted by the Northern Gulf oil spill.  The top federal official on the BP oil spill, Retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen (as reported in the July 30 Sun Sentinel), said there's very little chance any of the oil will reach South Florida. He said recent events have sharply diminished the oil threat to the Florida Keys and South Florida. "The chances that oil will become entrained in the loop current are very, very low and will go to zero as we continue to contain the leakage at the well with the cap and ultimately kill it," he said.  

"For the past several months, there has been an eddy (Eddy Franklin) that has broken off from the Loop Current between the wellhead and where the current come north and turns towards the Straits of Florida," said former Coast Guard Admiral Allen. "So (that) eddy has created a hydraulic barrier between the well head and the loop current and the chances that oil will become entrained in the Loop Current are very, very low and will go to zero as we continue to control the leakage at the well with the cap and ultimately kill it."  

The Gulf Loop Current is a clockwise current that normally 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 into the Gulf Stream.

Greater Fort Lauderdale has 23 miles of Blue Wave beaches, 34,000 accommodations, more than 4,000 restaurants and a wide range of attractions offering special deals for summer travel.

Additional details about the northern Gulf of Mexico oil spill are available on these official websites:

Florida Oil Spill Information Line:  1-888-337-3569
To report tarballs or other evidence of oil on Florida's coastline:  1-866-448-5816
To report oiled wildlife:  1-866-557-1401
To contact BP about a claim, contact the Claims Office at 1-800-440-0858 or file online at


q & a regarding greater fort lauderdale and the northern gulf oil spill
 for current and potential visitors to broward county:

I saw in the news that the oil slick might reach the Atlantic Coast soon.
The oil from the spill is still positioned in the northern Gulf of Mexico. At the current time, the northern end of the Loop Current has been pinched off into a large clockwise eddy (Eddy Franklin) so there is no clear path for spilled oil to enter the Loop Current from the source in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Oil entrained in the Loop Current would require persistent onshore winds or an eddy on the edge of the Loop Current for it to reach the Florida shoreline. If this were to occur, the weathered and diluted oil would likely appear in isolated locations in the form of tar balls. It is still unclear if the weathered oil would actually arrive in the Atlantic coast regions or bypass the area and remain either in the Loop Current or the Gulf Stream. The bulk of the spill should remain away from the Loop Current, according to NOAA.

What is the Loop Current?
The Gulf Loop Current is a clockwise current that carries water from the Yucatan Channel north into the south-central Gulf of Mexico, then back down south off the Florida west coast, past the Dry Tortugas and into the straits of Florida. The current plays a crucial role because of concerns that if oil gets into the Loop Current, it could be swept to the south, possibly into or around the Keys and then carried by the Gulf Stream to other areas of Florida and the east coast.

How can oil get into the Loop Current?
Transport in the northern Gulf is based primarily on current eddies and wind direction. A persistent wind from the north would push oil toward the Loop Current, while winds from the south help to keep oil away from the Loop Current. 

Can you guarantee me that the oil will not make its way to the Atlantic coast during my vacation?
Nobody can make a long-term guarantee that residue from the Gulf coast oil spill will or will not be seen along the Atlantic coast. But what we do know is that NOAA forecasts oil slick trajectory movements up to 72-hours ahead. As long as the oil is in the northern Gulf of Mexico and out of the Loop Current, it will not affect the Atlantic Coast. If the oil does get into the Loop Current, it will probably take two to three days to migrate down to the Dry Tortugas region, (situated about 70 miles west of Key West) and then likely be carried into the Florida Straits. Long-range forecasts are virtually impossible, but given current circumstances, if the oil did get into the Loop Current it would require approximately seven days to migrate near our coast.

If oil gets into the Loop Current, what impacts will it have on Greater Fort Lauderdale?
A definitive answer to this question is difficult because this is an unprecedented event. Officials cannot predict how much oil might get near South Florida beaches or exactly what form it would take.  Experts speculate that the material's residence time in the water would likely disperse it and result in "tar balls."  Impacts seen on Greater Fort Lauderdale's beaches could include an increase in tar balls or mixed seaweed and oil.  While arrival of oil in any form is unacceptable, those impacts would be less harmful to the environment and likely easier to mitigate.  It is also  possible that oil could remain in the Loop Current and Gulf Stream and completely miss Broward County or one area of Greater Fort Lauderdale could be affected and others not.  Currently, however, no such impacts have been seen and none are expected in the near future.

I hear authorities have shut down fishing and diving in Fort Lauderdale.
That is emphatically not true. Earlier this week NOAA issued an order restricting fishing in federal waters affected by the oil spill. That area is in the far northern Gulf of Mexico between Louisiana state waters at the mouth of the Mississippi River to waters off Florida's Pensacola Bay. These areas are far from Broward County and no other areas of Florida are under the order at the current time. It also means that Broward- and southeast Florida-caught seafood has not been affected and is still delicious and safe to consume.

Is it safe to dive, swim and participate in other water sports in Greater Fort Lauderdale?
Yes! There are no advisories in Broward County currently in effect due to the Gulf oil spill. The Broward County Health Department is monitoring the situation and would issue an advisory in the event of any health-related risk.Click to view live beach webcams.

What is a tar ball?
A tar ball is a blob of oil which has been weathered after floating in the ocean. Tar ball concentration and features have been used to assess the extent of oil spills and their composition can also be used to identify their sources of origin. They are slowly decomposed by microorganisms. While not dangerous to most people, tar balls can cause an allergic reaction and should only be retrieved by trained personnel. Tar balls can occur naturally and as such are not always associated with oil spills.

I'm apprehensive about traveling to Greater Fort Lauderdale because I don't want to lose money if oil comes and ruins my vacation.
Each hotel has its own cancellation policy. It is prudent to check with the hotel, as well as any other South Florida travel-related operator, in advance to determine cancellation policies and if management will offer refunds in the event oil adversely affects the Atlantic waters.

What happens if oil does affect Greater Fort Lauderdale?
The U.S. Coast Guard is the lead government agency responsible for oversight of any necessary cleanup and remediation activities. The Coast Guard works in conjunction with other local, state and federal authorities to enact a 725-page area contingency plan that includes oil spill response actions. Some of the other agencies include Florida's Department of Environmental Protection, Broward County Emergency Management, Port Everglades and other public agencies, as well as area individuals and organizations. All efforts possible would be made to protect the beaches and marine environment in Broward County. The agencies have a unified plan in place to address oil spills caused by vessel groundings and have conducted several drills to prepare for such an incident. Since the oil spill began, agencies have met several times to adapt the plan. BP must pay for all response activities.

I hear much of Florida is under a state of emergency.
Twenty six of the state's 67 counties -- including Broward County -- are under a state of emergency, even though no impacts have been seen in Florida. The edict is issued so that counties can qualify for federal reimbursement funding and small business loans, if needed. Visitors continue to be welcomed to all Florida areas that are under a state of emergency..

When will this be over?
We don't know for sure. The outcome and timing depends on when the leaks at the well site can be plugged or effectively contained, how well current mitigation efforts work in containing the oil that is in already in the water, and on wind and weather conditions.

Where can I get more information on the oil spill?
Official NOAA oil slick trajectory maps can be found at 
Spill-related websites, primarily focusing on affected areas, include  and   

to contact bp about a claim, contact the claims office 1-800-440-0858 or file online at