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Oil spills can travel vast distances and even drilling that occurs hundreds of miles away in the Gulf of Mexico can have real impacts on the health of the protected places like the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The Keys were at risk because the Loop Current that flows up into the Gulf of Mexico loops down along the western shore of Florida and then heads right along the Florida Keys before picking up the Gulf Stream and shooting along the Atlantic Ocean's shoreline. When oil started gushing, state, federal, and local officials in the Keys snapped into action. Citizens prepared for the worst. Thankfully, an unusual current -- dubbed the "Franklin Eddy" -- pinched off the Loop Current and kept the oil from reaching the Keys. One of the most environmentally sensitive island chains in America was spared oiling of its shores.

last revised 12/15/2010

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