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Gulf oil spill targets Florida beaches as it nears loop current

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But Lubchenco did add: “It is safe to say the tar balls … are an example of what might happen should oil become entrained in the loop current. That is a scenario we are anticipating and preparing for.”

The oil expected to appear on Florida beaches will likely be “weathered” – diluted by as much as 40 percent through its exposure to the water and sun. Florida Gov. Charlie Crist's office sent a press release with photos to show residents what forms the oil might take on the shore. He asked that any sightings be reported immediately to an emergency command center.

“Floridians and visitors can play an active role in minimizing any potential threats to Florida’s beautiful beaches and coastline by reporting the impact of oil … it is important that we be prepared and informed about what to look for,” Governor Crist said in the statement released late Tuesday afternoon.

Last week, Crist issued an order to accelerate staging areas for 19 coastal counties. On Monday, he organized a council of attorneys to explore possible legal or regulatory actions should the oil cause havoc on the state coast.

“Since the first day [of the spill] we were anticipating it was coming a lot sooner than it did," says spokeswoman Jessi Freud. "It’s eight to 10 days away, but we’ve already acted like it’s coming the whole time."

On Tuesday, NOAA expanded the ban on commercial fishing in the Gulf. To date, the ban affects 19 percent of federal waters in the region. The US Food and Drug Administration is starting to test seafood from both inside and outside the closed areas to monitor possible toxicity.

Florida beaches safe? Check the webcam.

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