Destin Beaches: Still Virtually Oil-Free (But It Looks Like Someone “Threw Up”!)
The Gulf looks angry today. Or maybe sick. Very few people are in the normally crystal clear, emerald green water. Many are just standing at its edge, staring at it, afraid to step in. The way I describe it is it looks like the Gulf “threw up” overnight. One of the tourists walking by yells to me (as he points to the green clumps of algae), “That was a hell of an exorcism last night”.
No, the Gulf isn’t spitting up brown tar balls. It’s coughing up green algae and seaweed. There’s so much algae, it’s ankle deep along the sand in some places. One of my beach rental chair “friends” calls it “June bloom”. He says the recent hot weather has helped spur the explosive growth of the microscopic algae. How long will it last? “Don’t know”, he says, “maybe until this afternoon, or maybe for several weeks.”
So it’s not the threat of oil and tar balls that’s keeping many beach-goers out of the water today. But evidence of April’s disaster is showing up more and more each day. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has sent up one of its command posts nearby, and continues to monitor the beach in ATVs. I talked to one of the DEP cops this morning. He told me they’ve found more oil covered plastic bottles and tar balls today. They’re documenting everything they find.
I came across a styrofoam plate covered with oil on my daily morning walk on the beach. A half-hour later when I returned, it was gone, either washed away in the surf, or snatched up by the DEP police.
The beach isn’t busy. One obvious indication of that is the umbrella/chair rental business. My “friend” tells me he normally puts out 71 umbrellas, taking up three rows along “his” stretch of sand. I asked him if he’s renting half of them this week. “Not even close to half,” he says.
And this week he dropped his price from $25 a day to $20. But he’s optimistic about the future. Or at least next week. He’s heard that many tourists are either moving up their vacation to beat the oil, or moving eastward away from beaches that are closed or showing obvious evidence of the oil spill.
We’re leaving the beaches of Destin in the morning. A new batch of tourists will take our place this weekend. I hope they enjoy their week as much as we did ours, and the worst they have to deal with is “June bloom”. And hopefully we’ll be back again next year to enjoy one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.