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Waiting for the oil

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Updated: 5/06/2010 7:54 pm
Pensacola, Fla -- Scientists say it's not a question of if, but when our beaches will be affected.

It is the largest environmental disaster in our nation's history. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil are polluting the waters of the Gulf. Floridians are bracing for waves that will bring pollutants in with the tides.  What's happening in the Gulf is impacting much more than just the coastal areas of the US. Action News Reporter Catherine Varnum went to the Gulf to learn more about the fight.

"After April 22 our phones stopped ringing," said one business owner. "My phone has been non-stop ringing with cancellations," said a charter fisherman. "It's hard to picture a bird covered in oil in Perdido Key," said a long-time resident.

The fear of oil on the beaches seemed imminent early in the week. As the rain stopped and the sun came out, the oil stayed away and people came to the beach.

Surfers were catching waves, fishermen were catching fish and birds were swooping down to eat. But while we can't see the oil, some could  smell it. "We've been coming here three years and there's a difference in the air," said one tourist.

Businesses are getting cancellations. They've been postings signs saying we're still open and pray for the wind to blow the oil away.

Restaurants may be busy now, but fear they'll run out of seafood. "Better get it while its still good," said one restaurant manager.

If tourists don't come to the beautiful white beaches, the states tourism budget will take a huge hit and that hit will felt here at home. All the business owners know that. Hundreds showed up to meet with BP early in the week to find out how to get people here. BP is now rushing to plug a leak that's draining this community.

The coast guard is also scrambling to preserve the area. Orange boom is all over the Gulf and more goes out everyday.  They're hoping it'll stop the oil from contaminating their waters, but already some of it has washed up on the shore.

Captain Mike Newell can't go very far out into the Gulf with his boat. "Fishermen, we're losing our livelihood."

While this area now struggle to get people here, those who live here want you to see the beauty, the pristine beaches and wildlife it has to offer. "I wish people would bear with us," said Capt. Newell.

The latest information Action News has from county leaders in Pensacola is that there won't be any oil on the beach over the weekend. People we've been talking with expect to see it sometime the middle of next week.

Even driving back Thursday, trucks on I-10 were carrying more boom. County leaders are also asking homeowners to take pictures of their property before the oil hits so they have evidence of the damage for a claim.
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