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A year after record red tide, beach businesses taking heavy summer rain in stride

Posted at 6:38 AM, Aug 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-19 06:38:40-04

FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. — After last year's devastating impacts from red tide and fish kills on Southwest Florida beaches, businesses in Fort Myers Beach have been breathing a lot easier this summer. But they've had something else to contend with - hard-to-predict rain patterns.

"The rain, yes, the annoying rain," said beach visitor Ken Kaye. "I've noticed that it seems to be more this year than last year. But I'd rather have the rain than the red tide, for sure."

Artist Chester Rogers sketches people visiting Fort Myers Beach at his stand along Estero Boulevard. But the umbrella over his chair can only do so much against the rain, especially when the downpours come at random times, rather than typical afternoon showers.

"It makes a big difference," Rogers said. "There are days I haven't even been out here. We get 50, 60 inches of rain every year. You just don't know which month it's coming. It is tough."

But like Kaye, Rogers said he'll take the rain over the red tide any time.

"Last year was an absolute nightmare," he said. "But summer business has been getting better every year."

And for many businesses along the beachfront, the summer showers can help bring customers in the door.

"If it comes down quick, the closest restaurant is where they'll run to," said Kathy Dougherty of Sunset Beach Tropical Grill.

"Considering last year when we had the red tide and it was horrible, this year the numbers are good," she added. "There's a lot of people still around. It's kind of like (tourist) season on the weekends."

And the real tourist season is just around the corner - more people and better weather.

"In a couple of months from now, it'll be beautiful," Kaye said.