Commentary - Disaster Looms for Florida, Pinellas County
By Leo Coughlin
I am hoping these hot and effusive tears that just won't stop will not blot and block out my words of agony when I think of my beautiful Gulf of Mexico on the verge of disaster, at the edge of total ruin.
Already, the tar balls and blobs of oil from the disaster spill south of New Orleans are reaching Pensacola. We can hope for the best here - maybe the junk will not despoil Pinellas's beaches - but the worst is beginning to happen up there in the Panhandle.
Those sugar white beaches from Pensacola to Panama City, rivaling the strand of the South China Sea, look like they are going to become blackened wrecks. Really, that sand is white white white, leaving the sand here dingy by comparison.
This past weekend, folks in Pensacola were headed for the seashore for a "last look." It is to make one weep, that prospect - a "last look." Hideous!
We may survive here, but a disaster for Florida impends.
To those potential tourists from far away, Florida is all of a piece. Some family up north in America, or in France or Germany or anywhere in Europe won't distinguish between Pensacola and Punta Gorda, between Apalachicola and Ft. Myers.
To them, it's all Florida and with the horror story going on out there south of Louisiana (which is already well down the road to wreckage) and the threat of oil, tar, gunk, despoliation-threatening Florida, their decision is simple.
We ain't going.
And they're not coming means the tourism industry is dead, kaput, gestorben, ended, finito. Down the drain time.
Keep in mind, it all has a domino effect. No tourists, no dollars, no hotel/motel reservations, no restaurant meals, no snack shop stops, no drugstore/notions business, no tax income.
Already, some sources have predicted a 42 percent drop in Penny for Pinellas funds. Bad news that for a place like Largo that is mortgaged to the hilt with borrowing to be paid back by Local Option Sales Tax money that has yet to materialize.
This doesn't even touch on the other Gulf-related activities - commercial and sport fishing, boating, the boat building industry - the list goes on and on.
The oil spill, which is pumping more than 600,000 gallons of crude a day into the Gulf, has already ruined the Louisiana wetlands. Mississippi's short coastline is wrecked; Alabama's even shorter coast, albeit beautiful, is not worth visiting.
Not long ago, the question was whether Florida would allow offshore drilling. The negative side of the question expressed the idea of the dangers that the state is now going to suffer from, without any drilling having taken place. Irony.
Is there any question that the drilling is necessary? No. It is necessary because we have a leadership in this country going back eight or nine presidents and 20 or so Congresses that has not done a blamed thing about pursuing an alternative.
No power plants of any kind being built - worse yet, none even planned. My beautiful Gulf is being ruined, my beautiful Florida faces almost sure disaster.
If you think the future is anything other than grim, you are whistling in the dark.
Perhaps the only bright spot is that Florida will return to something like it was more than 60 years ago. Without the beaches, of course, this time.
Florida will be rural and bucolic and there will be no more reason for anyone to "come down" and begin taking over and showing how things should be done.
That might be the one bright spot.
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