Computers Show Gulf Oil Reaching East Coast

A Florida beach. CBS

Updated at 6:54 p.m. EDT

Heavy rain and surf made it tough to skim oil now edging closer to Florida's pristine white sand beaches. Sheen and patches of tar just four miles from shore could begin to wash up Saturday, reports CBS News correspondent Kelly Cobiella

Crews have laid three layers of boom around Florida's bays and wetlands. Escambia County is spending millions of dollars from their own emergency hurricane budget to make sure those booms stay in place because they don't trust BP to do it.

"The big question is what's below the surface that we don't see," said Escambia County emergency management director John Dosh.

Special Section: Disaster in the Gulf

With Mississippi, Alabama and now Florida in the spill's path, scientists have another concern: Six different computer models all showing oil moving around south Florida and up the east coast.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research models showed Thursday that oil could enter the Gulf's loop current, go around the tip of Florida and as far north as Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. According to researchers, oil could threaten East Coast beaches by early July, but they cautioned the models were not a forecast.

The oil could then head by Bermuda on its way to Europe.

Martin Visbeck, a research team member with the University of Kiel in Germany, says it is unlikely any oil reaching Europe would be thick enough to be harmful.

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist says oil from the massive Gulf spill is now within four miles of the Panhandle coast.

Crist said the sheen was spotted during a flyover Thursday. Crist said the military should take over the cleanup effort from petroleum giant BP PLC, saying it would make faster decisions.

Officials say it's inevitable that oil will eventually wash up onshore.

The spill's arrival coincides with the beginning of the Panhandle's summer tourism season, which normally brings millions of dollars to the region.

Facing the imminent threat of oil hitting Florida's shoreline, tourism officials are pulling an advertising campaign proclaiming the state's "Coast is Clear."

Chris Thompson, head of Visit Florida, said Thursday the radio, TV, online, social media and print ads rushed to market after a $25 million payment from BP were being immediately replaced. The new campaign highlights Florida's 825 miles of beaches, proclaiming most are unaffected.

It also directs vacationers to Visit Florida's website, which is packed with regularly updated video and photographs to reinforce the message Florida's beaches are fine.

The ads are running in markets near and far, from Houston to Nashville, Tenn., and Baltimore.

Oil has now washed up on the beaches of three Gulf states. It's not dangerous say health experts when it comes to encounters with small amounts of oil by beachgoers.

Government doctors say that if oil gets on bare skin, you should wash it off as soon as possible with soap or baby oil. Call the local poison control center if a rash or other problem develops. But doctors don't advise a visit to the emergency room just for getting slimed by a tarball or even swallowing a bit of oil-tainted water while playing in the surf.

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