Tracking the spill: Good news, bad news in Fla. Panhandle

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Here's some good news: The 26 miles of beaches in South Walton along Florida's Emerald Coast in the Panhandle are clean and open. The sheriff's office has received no oil or tar ball reports in two weeks, although heavy surf conditions continue today, and beachgoers are advised to monitor beach flags warning of hazardous rip currents.

Here's some bad news: Jeanne Dailey, president of Newman-Dailey Resort Properties in Miramar Beach between Destin and South Walton, Fla., reported that summer bookings have plummeted and cancellations have escalated for the 200 condominium and private rental homes her firm handles. She attributed the decline in business to national media reports that "all of the beaches in the Florida Panhandle are covered in oil and tar."

To try to counter the negative publicity and misperceptions, Dailey posts live videos and photos at DestinVacation.com and participates in free marketing support offered by the TripAdvisor for Business initiative that supports Gulf Coast businesses.

Farther west along the Gulf Coast, more than 1,000 pounds of tar balls and waste were collected July 5 in and near Lake Pontchartrain near New Orleans.

Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band will play July 11 on the beach in Gulf Shores, Ala., which has been sporadically hit by oil for weeks. The show was originally scheduled for July 1 but was postponed because of Hurricane Alex.

Forecasters are keeping a close eye over the next few days on some storm activity in the Yucatan Peninsula.

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