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Englewood beachgoers feel impacts of red tide

Englewood Beach
Posted at 6:04 PM, Nov 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-15 08:17:51-05

ENGLEWOOD BEACH, Fla. — Walking on Englewood Beach, you can hear the sound of coughing from many beachgoers.

People on the beach said they definitely feel the impact of red tide in the water. Red tide Levels are elevated at this time for Costal Lee, Charlotte, and Sarasota counties including the Manasota Key.

Red tide is a microscopic algae that produces toxins that kill fish but also can make it difficult to breathe. It's well-known to Southwest Florida residents but may not be as present in the minds of visitors.

"It really gets to you where you end up coughing," said Kathi Halbert, an Ohio resident, as she coughed. “As soon as I walked out, I can feel it; it is in my throat.”

Halbert wasn't the only one on the beach coughing up a storm.

“You can definitely feel it, when it gets windy you can feel it in your lungs; it’s a little irritable,” said John Peacock, a visitor from Massachusetts.

Halbert said when coming to the beach she thought it wouldn't be too bad. Everyone Fox 4 spoke with on the beach were either from the north or midwest and said they didn't want to cancel their beach trips.

However when a wave comes in and the wind shifts, there is a spray that likely contains microbes from the red tide.

We researched it; we are all healthy and don’t have any preexisting conditions, so we feel good,” said David Lawton, a Massachusetts resident.

“I think that is a good assessment; you have to really listen to your body," said Dr. Mike Parsons, a marine science professor from FGCU.

Dr. Parsons added that the typical red tide event starts at the end of September and ends in late January or early February.

When asked if it will get any worse, he said it's too early to say, but believes it will be around a few months.

"How is Hurricane Ian affecting red tide; will the waves keep blowing onshore consistently like we have had the past couple of weeks? That keeps red tide right up against the shore,” Dr. Parsons said.

Dr. Parsons added that it's a coincidence that this red tide event happened so close to Hurricane Ian—and experts say they saw the same thing happen after Charley and Irma.

He also said that when it comes to the algae and bacteria from the storm, it should be cleared up within the next month or so, but that timeframe could also depend on how quickly debris can be pulled from the water.

The Florida Department of Health in Charlotte County issued a Health Alert for the presence of a red tide bloom near Whidden Key; east of (Lemon Bay) and Buccaneer Bend; west of (ICW). This is in response to a water sample taken on 11/7/2022.

The public should exercise caution in and around these areas.

  • Look for informational signage posted at most beaches.
  • Stay away from the water, and do not swim in waters with dead fish.
  • Those with chronic respiratory problems should be especially cautious and stay away from this location as the red tide can affect your breathing.
  • Do not harvest or eat molluscan shellfish or distressed or dead fish from this location. If caught live and healthy, finfish are safe to eat as long as they are filleted, and the guts are discarded. Rinse fillets with tap or bottled water.
  • Wash your skin and clothing with soap and fresh water if you have had recent contact with red tide.
  • Keep pets and livestock away and out of the water, sea foam, and dead sea life. If your pet swims in waters with red tide, wash it as soon as possible.
  • Residents living in beach areas are advised to close windows and run the air conditioner, making sure that the A/C filter is maintained according to the manufacturer's specifications.
  • If outdoors near an affected location, residents may choose to wear masks, especially if onshore winds are blowing