In Pensacola Beach, Fla., the county Chamber of Commerce and VisitPensacola.com have produced a light-hearted video paid for by BP.
Actors portraying BP clean-up workers are shown enjoying all the attractions in town - from skipping down the beach to going for a bike ride to taking in the nightlife - in an attempt to draw visitors back to the region. Over a montage of Pensacola scenes, text reads, "The cleanup goes on. But the fun never stopped. Pensacola."
Watch the full clip, titled "Clean Up Fun," that Visit Pensacola posted on YouTube.
See Mark Potter's complete report on NBC News' Nightly News that included a clip from the video.
A woman wearing a T-shirt with an anti- BP message looks over oil-soaked sand on Pensacola Beach, Fla.
While most national news outlets are reporting that Florida's Pensacola Beach is closed, that isn't the case — the Gulf has reopened for swimming along Pensacola Beach after the Escambia County Health Department lifted its health advisory today, the Pensacola News-Journal reports.
The double red flags, which signal no swimming in the Gulf, came down at 10 a.m. ET and were replaced with yellow flags, which are cautioning folks to swim with caution of rough waves, not because of anything to do with oil.
To be sure, the oil is still there. It's just not visible on the beach. "Despite intensive efforts by more than 1,100 workers and heavy equipment to clean thick tar from Pensacola Beach," the News-Journal says, researchers from the University of South Florida discovered that oil is buried about 1 inch to 8 inches deep in the sand.
"It was so horrible yesterday, very thick," Larry Mitchell, who grew up in Pensacola, told NBC station WALB of nearby Albany, Ga. "It makes you want to cry."
PENSACOLA, Fla. – This morning residents and tourists in Pensacola Beach awoke to the day they long feared.
The high tide, plus southeast winds overnight, brought globs of oil onto the pristine white sand beaches here. The oil is now fouling those beaches for as one official said, "as far as the eye can see."
Photo by Mark Potter/ NBC News
Globs of oil washed up on Pensacola Beach Wednesday morning - fouling the pristine white sand beaches.
All along the water line this morning, tar has been washing ashore. You can see it in the surf – it is all over the beach. It is sticky, brown and running in lines all along the waterline, in front of the hotels and near Pensacola’s famous fishing pier.
This morning, there were a few people out on the beaches, walking, looking at the oil and shaking their heads, but no one is going in the water.
Clean-up crews are here and starting to work on the beaches. Some skimmer boats could be seen off in the horizon, trying to catch the oil as it comes ashore.
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But when I got out here early this morning, shortly after dawn, there were no skimmer boats out there catching the oil, it came ashore unimpeded.
The fact that the skimmer boats are offshore suggests there is probably more oil still coming in. The wind continues to blow from the southeast, pushing whatever oil there is toward the shore. So this is something that could continue throughout the day. But already the beaches are fouled and swimmers are not able to go into the water.
The number of people coming to the beach already has dropped dramatically throughout Florida and especially here. And it couldn’t come at a worse time – this is the height of the tourist season.
People here make their money from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and the tourists are not coming here in the numbers that they normally would. The amount of oil on the beach in Pensacola today is going to be a big hit against the tourist industry here.
Pensacola officials had been saying for some time that the water is fine and the beaches are clean – and indeed, they were. Previously, just a few tar balls washed ashore a few weeks ago, but that was it.
For the last few weeks, Pensacola had dodged a bullet. But today its luck ran out and the oil did come ashore here.
Photo by Mark Potter/ NBC News
Tar balls wash up on Pensacola's pristine white sand beaches.
The question is whether the oil that hit the beaches also got past the booms and various barriers that have been set up to stop the oil from getting into the back bay area in Pensacola Bay.
That is a major fear of residents here – that the oil could get into the estuaries, marshlands and other protected areas in Pensacola Bay.
They tried to seal off the entrance at Pensacola Pass, to keep the oil from going up, but they haven’t been totally successful in the past. With this onslaught, the question is how much oil got up there and the fear is that perhaps quite a bit did.
PENSACOLA BEACH, Fla. – For now the coast is clear, which is good news for tourists enjoying some fun in the sun this week on Florida's white-sand beaches.
But for residents whose livelihoods depend on a steady flow of summer vacationers, news that oil is within striking distance here left many with looks of pained resignation in their faces.
Sandy Gray grew up in the area. She donned a bikini and headed to the beach Wednesday – her digital camera in tow – to capture what she fears are the dwindling final days of pristine shoreline for quite a while.
Like many, she hoped that winds and currents would keep the oil suspended in the open sea, giving crews time to clean up the spill before it washed ashore in some community. Hearing that an oil slick was spotted within 10 miles of Pensacola was jarring, she said.
“We thought we were going to get lucky. But this is really bad,” Gray said. “We have the most beautiful beaches in the world. This is going to take years to clean up. When it hits here, we have nothing.”
That, of course, is the fear for many in the tourist industry ahead of the peak summer. And while Chamber of Commerce officials were reporting a few hundred hotel/vacation property reservation cancellations, the expectation is that the number may explode, leaving more than a few businesses in the red by summer's end.
Beachside, there was no evidence of the frantic efforts Wednesday to lay down secondary containment booms in Pensacola Bay and offshore. Kids frolicked in the sand and in the warm water. Parents kept watchful eyes on both their young ones and the books they clutched in their hands. Screams of joy rose from nearly every pocket of the beach. Yet, underneath it all, was an obvious pall.
One tourist from Utah expressed regret that he'd only just gotten to Florida, though would try to make the most of his vacation by spending as much time in the sea as he could before the oil sludge and tar balls float in.
A couple, believing they’d spotted plumes of oil dancing in the waters off Fort Pickens National Park nearby, were seemingly enthralled to be close to such a big international story with historical ramifications, though there has not been an official declaration of oil at that site. “It was so cool,” one of them said.
Acknowledging the comment as the pair sauntered away, Gray simply replied, “No, it's not cool.”
And with that, she cupped her camera in her hand and headed home, hoping she really hadn't just taken the final photos of her postcard-worthy hometown beach in all its clean and glistening glory.