Gov. Charlie Crist and Emergency Operations Chief David Halstead said that the state must prepare for the potential impact of the oil spill on Florida to be broad and wide and declare a state of emergency that now comprises 19 counties, almost all of the state's entire West coast.
"Until the well head is capped we feel there is a distinct possibility it will affect Florida,'' Halstead said.
"As long as this hole remains open in the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, we have 210,000 gallons spewing into the Gulf...If it continues to spew out and the tides turn, obviously you can see what will happen,'' Crist said.
Although they don't expect the oil to reach Florida until Wednesday at this point, Crist said will take an aerial review of Pensacola coast tomorrow, and then may extend the state of emergency to Collier and Monroe counties as well. "I want us to be prepared,'' he said.
"BP in this instance is a responsible party but we need to be a responsible country," Crist said. "We can send them a bill later...It creates a significant concern that the party that's creating the problem is now the party responsible for cleanings thiup. I get that.''
Meanwhile, he said, he wants Florida to "make sure we do everything humanly possible to protect Florida first."
He said that the effort by BP to staunch the leak include what was done in Australia in October 2009, when an additional hole was drilled and was successfully capped off. The diameter of the hole then was 10 inches, this hole is 7 inches. "There is hope that this can be contained. At least it can stop the bleeding."
Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Sole said that if the attempts at plugging the leak are unsuccessful, it could be days to months to see this problem resolved. "If this is not plugged this is merely going to grow and the need to protect Florida's shorelines is going to grow,'' Sole said. "Fortunately winds have been good and have kept the plume from reaching Pensacola and reaching the rest of the coast.
Sole said the concern to beachgoers is that there will first be "some light staining of the sand -- that's not a safety issue, that's an esthetic issue,'' he said. But after the first landfall is concern that another one may follow, he said.
The state has deployed 87,000 feet of boom in Escambia, about 19,000 a day. State emergency officials expect to set up a a unified command center in St. Petersburg which will implement the contingency plan to do booming to protect their resources.