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Tar balls spotted off Pensacola, Florida

A ``concentration of tar balls'' has been detected about 10 miles off the Pensacola coast, a Florida government alert said at noon Wednesday, predicting ``no large impacts'' on the state before the weekend.

The primary oil plume from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill was 35 miles from Pensacola, according to the daily alert from Gov. Charlie Crist. It cited the latest ``oil plume model'' from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The plume was 325 miles from St. Petersburg, it said, ``with noncontiguous sheens and scattered tar balls closer.''

It also noted that forecasts of increased winds and seas this week across the northern-central Gulf of Mexico gave a 50 percent chance or better of showers and thunderstorms through Friday, which could hamper surface oil recovery operations.

The catastrophe crept closer to the Sunshine State as efforts to stop the 44-day-old Deepwater Horizon oil spill hit a snag at 5,000 feet below the surface.

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