Coverage: Gulf Coast Oil Spill
MIAMI (AP) — Oil from the massive Gulf of Mexico spill has as high as an 80 percent chance of reaching the Florida Keys and Miami, according to a computer model released Friday by the federal government.
The model, released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, shows Florida's southeastern coast has a 61 percent to 80 percent chance of seeing oil by Aug. 18. The area from the Keys north to the Fort Lauderdale area could see sheen, tar balls or other oil remnants within 20 miles of the coastline.
Outside those areas and the Florida Panhandle, which has already seen beaches littered with tar balls, other parts of the state show a low probability of oil. The state's western coast has a 20 percent chance or lower of seeing oil.
Parts of southwest Florida have less than a 1 percent chance, according to the model, which assumes oil will continue to seep from the site of the April 20 explosion on the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon.
Rachel Wilhelm, a spokeswoman for NOAA, said the amount of oil seen in South Florida could range widely. However, at least at first, it will likely be heavily weathered remnants.
"We're talking about light sheens and streamers and tar balls perhaps the size of dime to maybe the size of your fist," Wilhelm said. "Certainly not what you're seeing in the Gulf right now — we're talking about very weathered, highly dispersed oil."