U.S. report: BP spill likely to reach Florida Keys, Miami

As cleanup of BP’s massive spill resumes, a new U.S. report shows a 61% to 80% chance that the oil will reach within 20 miles of the coasts of the Florida Keys, Fort Lauderdale and Miami.

“Any oil reaching this area would have spent considerable time degrading and dispersing and would be in the form of scattered tar balls and not a large surface slick of oil,” reports the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which bases its forecast for the next four months on historical wind and ocean currents.

The oil could read that far because of the “potential influence of the Loop Current,” NOAA said in an announcement of its report, issued Friday.

NOAA forecasts that the coastlines most likely to be hit by oil - 81% to 100% – extend from the Mississippi River Delta to the western panhandle of Florida, where tarballs have already washed ashore. It says other areas of Florida are much less likely to be affected.

Chances are slight – 1% to 20% – that oil will reach the Eastern Seaboard and it’s ” increasingly unlikely” oil will affect areas above North Carolina, because the Gulf Stream moves away from the continental United States at Cape Hatteras, according to NOAA.

Meanwhile, oil-skimming vessels that had been idled for three days because of Hurricane Alex’ rough seas and high winds have been sent back out to collect oil.

“It’s going to be a long weekend from an oil spill response perspective,” Coast Guard Adm. Paul Zukunft said Friday in a briefing.

Officials hoped to move another containment ship above the gushing well by Wednesday to nearly double the 25,000 barrels of oil being recovered daily, reports the Los Angeles Times.

As many as 60,000 barrels a day are leaking from BP’s Macondo well, according to U.S. government estimates. The ultimate solution to stopping the leak, which began April 20 when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, is the drilling of a relief well, which BP says it will likely complete in early August.

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