Pensacola Beach reopens

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 26, 2010

PENSACOLA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — County officials lifted health warnings and opened Pensacola Beach for swimmers on Friday, but signs of the vast BP oil spill were everywhere on what would normally have been a busy July afternoon.

Oil cleanup workers in neon green vests replaced sunbathers on this once pristine beach.

Buzzing in the skies above — Coast Guard and sheriff’s officer helicopters; not the usual banner planes advertising all-can-eat crab legs and deals at local surf shops. Out in the turquoise Gulf of Mexico, a flotilla of oil skimming boats and barges loomed on the horizon.

Bulldozers, tractors and other heavy equipment filled the beach parking lots.

Gov. Charlie Crist inspected the work on Friday, his second trip to the beach this week.

Crist said he wanted to make sure the hundreds of cleanup crews and stayed on the job.

“It ought to be all hands on deck to fight for Florida and that’s why were here,” he said.

A dolphin jumped just off the oil-fouled beach as Crist checked out a mechanical sand-sifting machine and thanked the driver of a front-end loader for his work hauling bags of contaminated sand.

Some health advisories along a more than 60-mile stretch of busy tourist-filled Panhandle beaches were lifted on Friday while new ones were put in place.