Monday, 31 January 2011

When is the Best Time to Buy Real Estate in Walton County Florida?


The Walton County Florida MLS shows real time results of the real estate options for sale. But, how do you know when to make a move?
Savvy investors look at economic indicators such as home prices and long-term demand to determine the best time to buy real estate. The national median sales price for existing single-family homes in May 2010 was $179,400, up 2.7 percent from the previous year, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Rising prices are a good sign that the demand for homes is increasing. It also means that bargain inventory listed in the Walton County Florida MLS is more apt to be purchased quickly.
While home prices remain low as seen by doing a search in the Walton County Florida MLS, they are no longer free falling. If you've been holding off on a real estate purchase, glimmers of a turnaround in the housing market may make this a good time to make your move.
Even though the Deepwater Horizon oil spill has recently taken a toll on consumer confidence in the Florida real estate market, long-term economic trends continue to favor Florida. Census data shows that Florida has been one of the 10 fastest growing states in the U.S. for the past seven decades, often ranking in the top four as a long-term grown state. And, the rate of unemployment statewide has declined for the third month, down from a record 12.3 percent in March to 11.4 percent in June 2010.
A search for homes and property in the Walton County MLS shows a variety of pricing and style options throughout Defuniak Springs, Freeport and Paxton. But, no matter where you are in your decision-making process, it doesn't capture the unsurpassed lifestyle that brings people to Florida in the first place. Beautiful beaches, business benefits like no state income tax, and plenty of recreational outlets are just a few of the perks in the Sunshine State. Knowing the best time to buy only adds to the benefits of purchasing real estate in Florida.
Bruce Naylor is the owner of Naylor Realty & Associates in Walton County. With over 20 years of experience in real estate, Naylor Realty & Associates provide quality Walton County MLS resources. Bruce is also a former Director of The Emerald Coast Association of Realtors and currently serves on the ECAR grievance committee. Bruce is a licensed Florida and Alabama Real Estate Broker and Florida Mortgage Broker.

BP Has "Fixed" the Oil Spill?


Months after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, BP is optimistic in their statements that they have "fixed" the problem. Fixed it? Well, if by "fixed" they mean they've finally managed to stop the crude oil from spilling into the ocean, then I guess they've "fixed" it. I wouldn't really consider the situation fixed; I would say that they've stopped the initial problem from getting worse. Now it time for us to deal with the consequences.
While the BP execs shake hands with each other and pat themselves on each other's backs for their "accomplishment", the American citizens are the ones who literally have to clean up the mess and learn to survive in this post disaster.
Example: A friend of mine owns a business down in Florida which is directly tied to the tourist industry. Now, granted, Florida has not seen the devastation that the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts have seen, but the tourist industry in Florida has still been affected.
My friend decided to take advantage of all these "services" that have been set-up by our government to help people affected by the spill. He inquired about filing a claim for lost wages-he saw a huge decrease in business this summer and strongly believes it's because tourists have been afraid to spend their hard earned money to come on vacation to a place where there might be oil in the water and on the beaches.
So, he contacts the individual in his area who has been put in place to help citizens in this situation and is told that he can file a claim if he can provide proof that customers canceled their plans to use his services. What?! How in the world is he supposed to do that?
If a restaurant owner, for example, has lost money this summer because they didn't get nearly as much business as they should have, how are they supposed to prove that? People don't call up, email, or stop in to a restaurant to say, "By the way, just wanted to let you know, I will NOT be eating here tonight."
It's ridiculous! Once again, our government is finding a way to screw us out of our hard earned money, and in this case, money we were more than willing to work hard to make if BP hadn't had their little "mishap" in our ocean!
Jumping through hoops and putting up with headache after headache will end up costing us more in time, energy, and money than it's worth. So, sadly, chances are good that BP will "get away with it" and not be held nearly as accountable as they should be.
It will take the majority of the people along our Southeast coast years to recover from this-if they can recover at all. This oil spill, and they way it is being handles by our government, is yet another perfect example of why we, the humble citizens, need to be more self-sufficient and independent of our government.
My number one focus is growing my own food. I don't think that really counts as a hobby. For some people it is, but for me, growing my own fruits and vegetables and saving my own seed is the key to survival. The only person you can count on is yourself, if you ask me. The government is trying to "help" us all with GMOs and welfare, but it's all a crock. We need to know how to survive on our own.

Jerry Greenfield - EzineArticles Expert Author

St Johns River Could Replace Florida's Aquifer, But at What Cost?


The St. Johns River has been under considerable stress from its human neighbors for decades. The number of inhabitants in its basin, as well as in Florida in general, is expected to rise significantly over the course of the next decade. As such, it has been projected that the Florida aquifer will be unable to support the Florida population one it reaches its critical tipping-point, which isn't far away. To maintain a sustainable water table, proposals have been made to use 155,000,000 gallons of the St. Johns River per day, and another 100,000,000 gallons from the Ocklawaha River (its largest tributary).
It sounds like a tremendous amount of water (over 250,000,000 gallons) but to put it in perspective, over 2 billion gallons of water flow through the river every day. Certain locales have permission to pump out a negligible amount. Seminole County for example can pump 5 million gallons a day. Though 250 million is considerably less than 2 billion, it accounts for roughly an eighth of the water's daily flow. According to the general understanding of proportion, that's certainly far from negligible.
Just how far it is from negligibility from an ecological standpoint is another question. If indeed an eighth of the water's flow was being pumped out of it every day, it stands to reason that the overall water level will fall by roughly 12.5% (an eighth). Granted, some other factors can come into play, but an eighth less water is an eighth less water.
The possible threat to the ecosystem caused the interest group the St Johns Riverkeeper to lobby for the river to be placed on the list of 10 most endangered rivers in the US. The St. Johns earned the number 6 spot because of the condition of its waters as well as the looming threat of its inclusion in water consumption.
Residents and businesses are already feeling the pinch in the form of watering restrictions and higher utility rates. The political liabilities of the proposed siphoning of water from the St. Johns are potentially disastrous during this election season. Essentially pitting big business against individual interests, this is an issue with far-reaching ramifications for all of northwest Florida.
Whether or not the plan will go through remains to be seen, but the fact of the matter is that the Aquifer is a finite resource, and the water is going to have to start coming from somewhere else before too long.
This article was written by Matthew Jorn and is presented by Mike Davidson Ford Jacksonville. Searching for a Ford Econoline Jacksonville residents know they can trust the Good Guys at Mike Davidson Ford.

Matthew Jorn - EzineArticles Expert Author

Bad Press, Not Oil, Threatening Emerald Coast Vacation Properties


It appears as though media-hype is tainting the pristine beaches of Florida's Emerald Coast long before any landfall of oil. If the oil slick does reach NW Florida, which authorities are still unable to predict, the effects on the tourism industry will be nothing less than devastating. Unfortunately, for those with rental properties, apprehensive tourists are succumbing to media reports that Florida's beaches will be destroyed and they are cancelling their trips to the area. As one tourism operator puts it, "Right now the only disaster in Pensacola has been the bad PR that we've got".
May is traditionally the beginning of peak season for tourism on the Emerald Coast, the time when they generate enough revenue to carry them through the rest of the year. If indeed the oil does arrive, the money lost now could be the difference between staying afloat or drowning, prompting tourism operators from Pensacola to Panama City to scramble into damage control mode.
A number of campaigns have already begun in an effort to encourage tourists to keep their plans to visit the area. The Panama City Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau is hoping to entice visitors by offering a $200 travel credit towards future stays at select properties if the oil spill disrupts their visit. Likewise, major resorts such as the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort are revamping their policy to allow travelers 24 hr cancellation notice versus the previous 60 day stipulation.
In the wake of the recent real estate crash, investment property owners have seen the value of their rental properties and primary residences plummet and many will not be able to withstand another hit. Until now an investment property served as a safety net, with rental revenue covering ownership costs, but if rentals disappear and the oil disaster hits hard, the property will essentially have little or no value. This will leave the owner with no choice but to foreclose.
Any way you slice it, the massive oil spill from the Deepwater Horizon will have far-reaching effects on the environment and the economy. Whether or not the slick reaches the shores of Florida's Emerald Coast a considerable amount of economic damage has already occurred in the tourism industry. The owners and operators of vacation properties will struggle as bookings plummet and local businesses will suffer equally.
Obviously, nobody wants to see the mess wash up on the pristine beaches; however, if it does another opportunity may present itself. If cleanup efforts are necessary there will be an influx of trained workers and volunteers arriving in the area. All of these visitors will require lodging and services and may help to lessen the blow of one of the worse disasters we have ever seen.
Explore Destin-Florida-Real-Estate.com to find the best of Destin real estate. Find Alys Beach homes for salewith our free, fully searchable listings.

To Beach Or Not to Beach?


The spill began almost two months ago, unleashing more than two hundred thousand gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico everyday since. The first signs were ominous, macabre: dead sea turtles washing up on shores of Mississippi and Alabama. Surely something was out there. Something bad. Soon after, the loathsome culprit made itself known, as gelatinous slicks of ooze infiltrated the coastal marshlands of Southern Louisiana. Mobile Bay and Gulf Shores Mississippi saw their first signs of oil the following week. And in the last few days, globs of crude began washing ashore on barrier islands near Pensacola Florida.
But there's a lot more out there. And it's not exactly staying put.
Ocean currents are bringing the sludge mainly north, sparing most of Florida's West Coast. For now. But for northwest Florida -- named the 'Emerald Coast' for its beautiful green waters -- a close-encounter with the crude is inevitable. No one can tell for sure how bad it will be, but it is coming - it already has. And thousands of summer tourists who typically flock to the beaches of Destin, Fort Walton, Pensacola, and Annapolis have already made a change of plans. Florida is, after all, a big state.
Since the spill happened, greater Orlando has seen increases in hotel and vacation home activity, in excess of what is normally seen in the early summer season. Similar increases have been reported on Florida's East Coast, in Daytona Beach and Cape Canaveral. In a June 6th report by Clark Fouraker of ABC News, Sara Moore of Orlando-based All Star Vacation Homes made the following comment: "I would not say that it's off the charts, but we have started to receive inquiries. People are traveling to Orlando. This summer is up from last year."
So what does this mean for your Florida vacation? It could mean several things, including oily beaches, but almost certainly lower cost.
The Emerald Coast has yet to see heavy oil on their shores. Depending on currents and how quickly the disaster is contained, the area may escape relatively unscathed. Or, it could turn into the La Brea tar pits in a matter of weeks. In any case, with millions of tourist dollars hanging in the balance, you're likely to find very good deals if you do take your chances on the beach. On the other hand, the influx of beach goers into the Orlando market is only raising the stakes in an already competitive market; you'll certainly find great deals on vacation rental homes.
Of course it's the sea turtles and pelicans who really need the vacation. Millions are being invested in cleanup efforts, but the toll on wildlife is already apparent. Sea turtles, bluefin tuna, and many other species already struggling against human encroachment only face harder times from the accident. But it could be worse. The 1979 Ixtoc I spill released far greater volumes of oil into waters off Mexico. Even then, the Gulf's resilient ecosystem survived and rebounded. And just like the Gulf, Florida's economy is also adapting, weathering this disaster as best it can. In the end, we hope it's a story of survival, ecologically and economically.
By Matthew Donahue, for Starmark Vacation Homes.

Florida Boating and the Oil Spill


Florida Boating and the Oil Spill

By Debbie Whiteaker 
Boating in Florida remains alive and well despite the oil spill. The majority of Florida waters remain untouched by the spill.

How Has the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Affected Popular Beach Cities?


The Gulf of Mexico oil spill has been prevalent in the news all summer long. Residents might wonder how this catastrophe, also referred to as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, is affecting their favorite vacation spots. Since Sanibel Island is obviously a beach city and part wildlife refuge, this is surely one of the most important destinations in southern Florida.
What affect has the oil spill had on Sanibel? Royal Shell Vacations, which is Sanibel Island, Florida and Captiva Island's premiere vacation rental firm, recently reported that there is no oil evident anywhere near the beaches of the island. As a precaution the company announced a beach watch to assure residents and visitors that the beaches would continue to be oil free throughout the summer. In fact, the company is so dedicated to resident satisfaction that it is offering a special refund policy on its vacations if any oil does wash up onto the beaches.
Sanibel Island hotels and Island restaurants are still operating normally, as are Sanibel events in the area. What about the reports of "dark-colored clumps of algae?" This is not actually related to the oil spill. Beachgoers who have noticed these clumps are actually filamentous blue green algae broken off from submerged algal mats. The Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation stated that these clumps are not related to oil spills, nor are they harmful to the environment. These algal mats are often found in marine and freshwater conditions. These mats' suggested place of origin is the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River or even beyond.
While many people are fearing the repercussions of the oil spill, residents of Sanibel and Captiva, FL should be assured that the location is currently not threatened by the actions that took place primarily west of the state. This is important to realize, as some vacationers may be canceling plans to visit this Island, when in fact the beaches are just as beautiful and safe as ever.
Sanibel Island real estate has been increasing in value ever since the 2000 year. The median price of a house in the city is now just below $900,000, a 50% increase from ten years ago. This island city is an important part of the state's economy and a popular destination for both tourists and newly relocated career professionals. The beaches and wildlife refuges put Sanibel Island on the map. For more information about the beaches of Sanibel Captiva, visit the official city website.
SanibelCaptiva.com provides information on everything dealing with Sanibel and the Captiva Islands. At SanibelCaptiva.com you will find information on Sanibel Island real estate, Sanibel Island hotels and more.

Who Has Profited From The Oil Spill In Florida?

By Jack Wogan 
The oil spill in Florida represented both a disaster and a starting point for several companies. First of all, the damage it produced affected many businesses and also the life on the Gulf coast shores. The tourism in the affected area recorded a downfall as hotel reservations were canceled. Restaurants lacked fresh seafood and local people could no longer earn money from the fishing industry.

Who Has Profited From The Oil Spill In Florida?


The oil spill in Florida represented both a disaster and a starting point for several companies. First of all, the damage it produced affected many businesses and also the life on the Gulf coast shores. The tourism in the affected area recorded a downfall as hotel reservations were canceled. Restaurants lacked fresh seafood and local people could no longer earn money from the fishing industry.
The tragedy produced by the oil spill almost destroyed the economy in the area and also had a disastrous impact on the life in the sea. Corpses of turtles, birds, dolphins and fish were brought on shore, threatening to give birth to a general epidemic disease.
But whenever there's a crisis, there's always someone to profit from it. The oil spill disaster represented a gold mine for those who could seize the moment. Many of them came up with various ideas about how to fight the oil spilled in the Gulf.
Miraculous cleaning products that could make the stains of oil disappear and the clean-up gears were among the most common things to bring money to ingenious people. Others found it profitable to rent boats used in cleaning the waters or to rent shelters for the ones who were willing to give a hand.
The oil spill in Florida represented a weak point for the company which produced it and a strong point for the competitors who could turn the disaster into their advantage. Lots of machineries were also invented, such as turbines to separate the oil from the water or chemical dispersant to break up oil slicks.
Recruiting companies had to gain good money as many people were needed to help clean the waters. Suing the company responsible for the oil spill was a profitable action for lawyers, too. They made lots of money fighting in the court of law for the people who were affected by the unpleasant incident.
It will be never known if the oil spill was a sabotage action or a pure negligence. Nevertheless, it helped some people become rich and others become aware they could gain easy money. Property and environmental damage, health problems, lost business and personal income, they could all become a profitable affair, only if exploited appropriately.
The most common and traditional way to Buy Gold is by investing in small bars or coins.

Who Has Profited From The Oil Spill In Florida?


The oil spill in Florida represented both a disaster and a starting point for several companies. First of all, the damage it produced affected many businesses and also the life on the Gulf coast shores. The tourism in the affected area recorded a downfall as hotel reservations were canceled. Restaurants lacked fresh seafood and local people could no longer earn money from the fishing industry.
The tragedy produced by the oil spill almost destroyed the economy in the area and also had a disastrous impact on the life in the sea. Corpses of turtles, birds, dolphins and fish were brought on shore, threatening to give birth to a general epidemic disease.
But whenever there's a crisis, there's always someone to profit from it. The oil spill disaster represented a gold mine for those who could seize the moment. Many of them came up with various ideas about how to fight the oil spilled in the Gulf.
Miraculous cleaning products that could make the stains of oil disappear and the clean-up gears were among the most common things to bring money to ingenious people. Others found it profitable to rent boats used in cleaning the waters or to rent shelters for the ones who were willing to give a hand.
The oil spill in Florida represented a weak point for the company which produced it and a strong point for the competitors who could turn the disaster into their advantage. Lots of machineries were also invented, such as turbines to separate the oil from the water or chemical dispersant to break up oil slicks.
Recruiting companies had to gain good money as many people were needed to help clean the waters. Suing the company responsible for the oil spill was a profitable action for lawyers, too. They made lots of money fighting in the court of law for the people who were affected by the unpleasant incident.
It will be never known if the oil spill was a sabotage action or a pure negligence. Nevertheless, it helped some people become rich and others become aware they could gain easy money. Property and environmental damage, health problems, lost business and personal income, they could all become a profitable affair, only if exploited appropriately.
The most common and traditional way to Buy Gold is by investing in small bars or coins.

Oil Spill Day 29: Slick Headed Toward Florida as Interior Secretary Ken Salazar Faces Questions on Capitol Hill


Oil from BP's spill in the Gulf of Mexico may already be spreading toward Florida, government officials said today.
Photo: Feds: Most oil still not near strong loop current
A tar ball is retrieved May 17, 2010, from Fort Zachary State Park in Key West, Fla. The U.S. Coast... Expand
(U.S. Coast Guard/AP Photo)
While the bulk of the oil remains close to the site of the leak off the coast of Louisiana, aerial surveys suggest that light oil is close to the so-called loop current in the gulf, or may have already reached it, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials said in a conference call with reporters. The current could carry oil south to the Florida Keys and on to the Gulf Stream, which flows into the Atlantic Ocean.
The proximity of the light oil "indicates that oil is increasingly likely to become entrained, if it is not already," said Jane Lubchenco, the NOAA administrator.
NOAA officials believe that the diluted oil carried by the current would pose a minimal risk to Florida and the East Coast, but there are signs that the spill could already be having an impact far from the site of the leak.

Tar Balls Found Today

In Key West, Florida, about 500 miles from where the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig collapsed, authorities have discovered 60 tar balls ranging between 3 to 8 inches in diameter, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
Officials could not determine whether the tar balls came from the BP spill. They have been sent to a lab for analysis.
In Louisiana, Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal completed a flyover of the Plaquemines Parish and found troubling signs of a growing ecological problem.
Deep in Louisiana's weblands near Pass a Loutre, Jindal said he saw heavy oil that could cause major damage to aquatic life and the seafood industry.
"This is the first time we've seen this much heavy oil this far into our wetlands," Jindal said at a press conference following the flyover, noting that more heavy oil is forecast to hit the wetlands in the coming days.
Government officials today recapped the impact of the spill on wildlife so far. Thirty-five oiled birds have been discovered, 23 of which were brought in dead. One hundred and fifty-six sea turtles and 12 bottlenose dolphins have been found dead, though necropsies do not show any external or internal signs of oil.
"This spill is significant, and in all likelihood will affect wildlife for years if not decades," said Rowan Gold, the acting director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
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Oil spill in gulf could threaten Florida


By Craig Pittman, Times Staff Writer
In Print: Tuesday, April 27, 2010

An image taken from a NASA satellite on Sunday shows the Mississippi Delta on the tip of Louisiana at the center. The oil slick is a silvery swirl to the right.
An image taken from a NASA satellite on Sunday shows the Mississippi Delta on the tip of Louisiana at the center. The oil slick is a silvery swirl to the right.
[NASA]
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On Monday, weathered oil is seen near the coast of Louisiana from a leaking pipeline caused by last week’s explosion and collapse of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the gulf.
[Associated Press]
On Monday, weathered oil is seen near the coast of Louisiana from a leaking pipeline caused by last week’s explosion and collapse of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the gulf.

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An oil spill from a rig that sank off the coast of Louisiana is threatening marshes and beaches across the Gulf Coast, and unless it's contained it could wind up tainting the Florida Keys and perhaps the state's Atlantic coast, oceanography experts said Monday.
As of Monday, the slick was about 48 miles by 39 miles, lying some 30 miles off the coast of Louisiana. So far high winds have kept the spill away from land. It's about 80 miles from the nearest Florida beaches in Pensacola.
But the owner of the rig has been unable to shut off the oil flowing from 5,000 feet below the surface, so the slick continues to grow.
The marshes of southern Louisiana and Mississippi appear to face the most immediate risk from the spill because they are closest to it, said George Crozier, director of theDauphin Island Sea Laboratory in Mobile, Ala.
What happens after that depends on how quickly the owners of the rig can shut off the flow of oil. On Sunday theybegan using robot submarines to try to shut off a valve called a blowout preventer on a leaking pipe deep underwater. If that fails, then they will drill new wells on either side of the leak to relieve the pressure there — a process that could take months.
"If it goes on for four months, then yeah, we've got a problem," Crozier said. "But if they're able to shut it down after a day or two, then the risk is minimal."
"We can only hope that they can make that sucker stop very soon," saidWilton "Tony" Sturges , a retired Florida State University oceanographer. The winds that would push the spill toward Tampa Bay's beaches do not normally start until midsummer, he noted.
Officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are predicting that by today the slick will be pushed more toward the east, away from the Panhandle but pointed more toward Florida's peninsula.
Robert Weisberg, a University of South Florida oceanographer who specializes in studying the gulf, said that while the Panhandle may be safe, he is concerned that if the winds push it far enough to the east, the oil slick could be caught in the gulf's powerful loop current. The loop current flows north from Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula but then makes a clockwise turn and flows south.
If that happens, Weisberg warned, then the oil could be carried "toward the Keys and points up the east coast."
Florida Department of Environmental Protection officials are monitoring the spill, said DEP spokeswoman Dee Ann Miller, but "at this time there is not believed to be an immediate threat to Florida's waters."
Federal officials say they are doing their best to keep the growing oil slick from damaging any of the state's beaches or marshes. "Our goal is to continue to fight this spill as far offshore as possible,'' U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry said at a news conference Monday.
One idea: Put a dome over the leaks to catch oil and route it to the surface, where it could be contained. That has worked before with shallow wells. No one knows if it would work 5,000 feet below the surface.
A pod of sperm whales was spotted near the slick on Sunday. At this point no one knows what effect the spill may have on them, although there is a risk of respiratory and eye irritation, or stomach and kidney problems if they ingest the oil, said Teri Rowles, coordinator of NOAA's marine mammal stranding program.
Planes that were dropping chemicals that break down the oil were told to steer clear of the whales. The chemicals, known as dispersants, can be as toxic to mammals as the oil itself, marine biologist Jackie Savitz told the New York Times. So far there are no reports of any dead or injured animals in or near the slick.
The oil, which has been leaking at a rate estimated at 42,000 gallons a day, is coming from the site of the Deepwater Horizon rig, which exploded about 11 p.m. on April 20 and later sank. Eleven members of the 126-member crew remain missing and are presumed dead. The cause of the explosion at the rig, which was under contract to BP, remains under investigation.
Initially Coast Guard officials said there appeared to be no leak from the sunken rig. But on Sunday they discovered oil was in fact leaking from pipes deep beneath the surface.
The rig's owner, Transocean Inc., noted in a news release Monday that the rig — now on the sea floor about 1,500 feet northwest of the well center — was fully insured for $560 million. Transocean is the world's largest offshore drilling contractor.
Information from the New York Times and the New Orleans Times-Picayune was used in this report.

[Last modified: May 03, 2010 04:50 PM]

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Copyright 2010 St. Petersburg Times

Florida Worries About Effect on Tourism


MIAMI — Off Florida’s Gulf Coast, the seas are calm and the king mackerel are running. Capt. Joe Meadows’s telephone should be ringing with bookings for his 42-foot sport-fishing boat for the summer season. Instead, the calls are from reservation holders wondering if they should cancel.
Lynne Sladky/Associated Press
Demonstrators in Miami Beach carried symbolic black plastic tarps in a protest this week against offshore oil drilling.
GULF SPILL: READERS' REPORTS
Where have you seen the impact of the spill?
As the oil spill reaches land, we would like your updates and photographs of what you’re seeing. Photos are optional but recommended.
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In a state already reeling from foreclosures and unemployment, those whose livelihood depends on visitors lathered in sunscreen are trying to persuade tourists scared off by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to reconsider.
For now, Florida tourism is living and dying in 72-hour increments. While no oil from the spill — sheen, slick, blobs or balls — has washed ashore on Florida beaches yet, the state’s Department of Environmental Protection is guaranteeing such conditions for only three days at a time.
Hotel operators in the Panhandle say they are frustrated by headlines forecasting a “black tide” hitting Florida beaches.
“People are acting like there is a huge oil slick that is going to wash in and cover the buildings,” said Dana Powell, general manager of the Paradise Inn in Pensacola Beach. “But right now, we don’t have any oil and we are still playing.”
Then again, there is cause for concern at her 55-room hotel on a barrier island off the Florida Panhandle.
“We are all terrified because they really don’t know how big it is, where it’s going to go, how bad it’s going to be,” Ms. Powell said. “It is a great unknown.”
Scientists have warned that crude oil leaking from the blown well off the Louisiana coast is drifting toward an area where it could be swept into the Florida Keys and the Atlantic Ocean within the next two weeks.
The state’s Department of Tourism has tried to alleviate any public concern about the beaches by posting information about Florida’s destinations on its Web site in real time with beach Webcams, Twitter feeds and photos. Gov. Charlie Crist said he had secured $25 million from BP, which was leasing the oil well that exploded, to finance the tourism advertising campaign after an initial $25 million went to disaster preparation and response.
Still, bookings to destinations on Florida’s West Coast declined around 15 percent in the three weeks after the spill, compared with the three weeks before the spill, said Katie Deines Fourcin, a spokeswoman for Expedia.com. She said the trend was slightly worse for the Panhandle region.
Many travelers have already decided to avoid the area for now.
Robert Baldari, 60, and his four brothers had chosen Key West for a week of scuba divingand dining for their annual vacation, but they postponed their trip this week.
“We’ve been following the oil slick,” Mr. Baldari said. “But when it started moving, we decided it was too much money to spend if we weren’t going diving.”
Under normal circumstances, most hotels in the Panhandle would be fully booked by now for Memorial Day weekend — the traditional start of the peak summer tourism season. This year, plenty of rooms are still available.
“The pace of new reservations is down 70 percent,” said Julian MacQueen, chief executive of Innisfree Hotels, which operates four hotels along the Alabama and Florida Gulf Coast.
The same situation is playing out hundreds of miles away at Florida’s southern tip. When asked if new reservations were down at her Key West hotel, Carol Wightman, owner of the Marquesa, laughed and said, “Have you heard the phone ringing?”
There is disagreement among scientists, government and industry experts about the potential risk of oil pushing onto Florida’s coastline. Peter Ortner, director of theCooperative Institute of Marine and Atmospheric Studies at University of Miami, said he would be surprised if a surface spill made it to the Florida Keys, Miami and Fort Lauderdale beaches.
“I’m feeling better and better about it,” he said. “It’s more than three weeks later, and even the leading edge is now older. Older is better, because the most toxic stuff evaporates off and readily disappears.”
But the spill could still have a substantial effect on fish populations, Dr. Ortner said.
“I am concerned that a lot of species’ larvae — snapper, lobster, blue fin tuna, dolphin, billfish — are out on the edge of the Gulf Stream and loop,” he said, referring to the powerful current that carries warm water in a clockwise motion from the Yucat√°n Peninsula into the northern Gulf of Mexico, then south of the Florida Keys and out into the Atlantic. “Newborns and larvae are much more sensitive that adults. They are vulnerable.”
Damage to those populations would be more bad news for Captain Meadows and the $5.2 billion sport fishing industry. “That would wipe out my business for a few years,” Captain Meadows said.
There remains one other looming threat: Hurricane season opens June 1.
“All bets are off if a hurricane blows across the shelf,” Dr. Ortner said.