It’s Monday in Destin, and the beaches are oil-free. But I have a feeling we’re under the microscope. We’re being watched. Destin has company, and I’m not talking tourists.
From the ground and in the air, state and federal officials, along with their monikers, are here. The FEP, FWC, USCG, USAF. And I know what they’re looking for. Oil. Tar balls.
First I spotted the FEP police.
Florida Environmental Protection. Three of them. Two guys in white shirts and khakis, and the other driving down the beach in an ATV. I stopped him to again ask the obvious:
- Me: Have you found anything?
- FEP cop: Nope. All clear for now.
The FEP police told me they’re patrolling an 8 and a half mile stretch of Destin beaches for tar balls, similar to what’s washed up on shore just west of here.
Right after that, more ATVs show up, dodging the little kids playing with their toy shovels and buckets in the sand, and the elderly couples sitting in their sand chairs, reading their paperbacks. I step out in front of the second ATV, the one driven a man wearing a Coast Guard badge.
- Me: Found anything?
- Coast Guard: Nothing.
- Me: Yeah, that’s what the other guys said too.
- Coast Guard: Who was that?
- Me: The FEP police
- Coast Guard: They’re the state agency out here. But the Coast Guard is with the federal government, and we’re the lead agency.
- Me: Uh. Okay. That’s good to know.
Like I said, we’re being watched, not only on the ground, but also from the air. Throughout the day, the roar of helicopters interrupt the sounds of surf, and the playful screams of little kids. At times, Coast Guard choppers fly so low, I can almost make out the face of the pilots.
If it’s not the Coast Guard, then it’s a helicopter with the huge letters “FWC” painted on the belly that’s buzzing the shoreline. I had to look that one up. Fish & Wildlife. Makes sense, since many of the victims of this environmental disaster are not the human type.
There was yet another low-flying helicopter that caught my attention. This one was from the United States Air Force. I thought, “What are they doing here?” Then I remembered there’s an Air Force base nearby. Probably just routine. Probably.
All of this is going on as tourists routinely go about what tourists do on a hot day at the beach. It’s hard to ignore though. As my wife puts it, “It’s like having a drunk relative in the room, but no one says anything.”