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Times of the Islands Magazine

Beach Hazard Extended by NWS as Red Tide Affects Life in Southwest Florida

Aug 02, 2018 05:48PM ● By Kevin
The National Weather Service has extended its beach hazard through Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018, due to continuing red tide conditions, which are killing wildlife in droves and causing a potential health hazard in Southwest Florida. The original warning was put into place prior to the weekend, July 27.

A bloom of the Florida red tide organism, Karenia brevis, persists in Southwest Florida, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, with background to high concentrations in 15 samples collected from Sarasota County, very low to high concentrations in four samples collected from Charlotte County, background to high concentrations in 19 samples collected from or offshore of Lee County, and background to high concentrations in 10 samples collected from Collier County.

The commission continues to report that over the past week, fish kills and respiratory irritation were reported in Southwest Florida in Sarasota, Lee, Charlotte, and Collier counties.

"Red tide is a naturally-occurring microscopic alga that has been documented along Florida’s Gulf Coast since the 1840’s and occurs nearly every year," the commission cites. "Blooms, or higher-than-normal concentrations, of the Florida red tide alga, Karenia brevis, frequently occur in the Gulf of Mexico. Red tide begins in the Gulf of Mexico 10 to 40 miles offshore and can be transported inshore by winds and currents."

Consistently strong winds onshore have pushed the algae bloom toward Southwest Florida's beaches, causing the dead wildlife and airborne toxins to show up in droves. Meanwhile, reports at least 15 people were treated at Florida emergency rooms last week after coming in contact with the red tide.

"The ER visits were a result of people having contact with water from the St. Lucie River near Palm City on Florida's east coast," the article says.

There is no timing on the end of the event; however, the red tide is expected to stay close to shore, moving slightly to the south, according to the University of South Florida College of Marine Science.