State Of The Gulf

Click HERE for exclusive photos Written by Jonathan Serrie, FOX News Channel correspondent who has been reporting live from Destin's East Pass in Destin, FL and Orange Beach, AL. on the BP Gulf Oil Spill: Following the BP oil spill from the marshes of Louisiana to the white sand beaches of the Florida Panhandle, I'm struck by the juxtaposition of seemingly contradictory images -- signs of disaster next to signs of normalcy.
Children swim in the pristine waters of Destin, Florida's East Pass, while tar balls appear on some of the beaches just outside of town. In Alabama's coastal communities of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, double red flags warn swimmers to stay out of the water. But cleanup crews have managed to keep the sand safe for sunbathing and exploring.
Unlike the numerous hurricanes I've covered from these small coastal communities, this disaster has not forced the immediate closure of businesses or mass evacuations. Yet the effects, both economic and environmental, will likely be measured in years. I've heard several Gulf Coast residents describe the oil spill as a "hurricane in slow motion."
Even with BP's promise to pay "all reasonable claims," it remains unclear whether the commercial fishermen and mom and pop businesses of these small coastal towns will be able to survive prolonged fishing restrictions or drops in tourism. What's at stake is not just an economy, but a culture. Alabama Governor Bob Riley says the best way for people to help the Gulf Coast is to visit.
As someone who has witnessed his share of tar balls and oiled pelicans over the past two months, I have also seen many beautiful areas still unaffected by the spill, and enjoyed the food and hospitality.
For tourists and outdoor enthusiasts willing to keep some flexibility in their activities, now may be a good time to enjoy the unique culture and beauty of the Gulf Coast while the crowds are smaller than usual and visitors are especially appreciated.

OUTDOOR LIFE EXCLUSIVE BLOG by Jonathan Serrie, FOX News Channel correspondent who has been reporting live from Destin's East Pass in Destin, FL and Orange Beach, AL. on the BP Gulf Oil Spill: