LEE COUNTY, Fla. — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued an additional 36-hour alert for a moderate to high risk of respiratory irritation from red tide in Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota, Manatee, and Pinellas County beaches.
NOAA also adds that Charlotte and Monroe Counties could see elevated risk with onshore winds.
NOAA issues these alerts when the winds are blowing onshore or along the shoreline. Those winds push aerosolized neurotoxins from the blooms along the beaches, causing respiratory irritation along with various other symptoms in severe cases.
Even though red tide is present in the Gulf, that doesn’t mean it will ruin your beach day.
“There will always be a beach that doesn’t have red tide around,” said FGCU Water School’s Professor of Marine Science Dr. Mike Parsons.
Red tide is a harmful alga that is growing in every U.S. Coastal and Great Lakes State.
Red tide has continued to bloom off Southwest Florida since Hurricane Ian flushed nutrients into the waterways. Dr. Parsons says he advises beachgoers to try a different section of the beach if they experience red tide irritation.
“If you go to one section of beach and your eyes are burning and there are dead fish, chances are you can just go a mile or two down the coastline and it will be fine,” said Dr. Parsons.
This is due to wind direction and the topography of the coastline.
“But if the winds are conducive to blowing the red tide aerosols, if you will, up onto the beach and inland,” said Dr. Parsons. “You are more likely to be exposed.”
While Dr. Parsons is not as concerned as he was in 2018 and 2019 during the super blooms, he does find it interesting that the bloom is still going strong.
“The potential concern is red tide usually ends by this time of year,” said Dr. Parsons.
Over the next 36 hours, @noaacoastalsci is forecasting a HIGH risk of respiratory irritation from Karenia brevis (red tide) at some beaches in COLLIER, LEE, PINELLAS and SARASOTA counties. Conditions may vary. For latest updates at individual beaches, see https://t.co/tc4O9Me2gL. pic.twitter.com/Tov4S16eRU— NWS Tampa Bay (@NWSTampaBay) February 22, 2023
Dr. Parsons says it is truly a wait-and-see for how long the red tide bloom will last, but he notes the red tide appears to be moving up and down the coastline. That can be seen in Wednesday’s updated NOAA red tide levels.
That update shows red tide not only off Sarasota and Charlotte Counties in medium to high concentrations but also off Sanibel, Captiva, and Fort Myers Beach and newly added Collier County beaches that have been vastly clean of red tide in recent weeks.
“We are seeing that net movement south,” said Dr. Parsons. “So, one question is it just moving? It’s almost like it hopped in a car and moved down the coast. Or hop into a boat. Or is it spreading?”
But why hasn’t the bloom ended? Dr. Parsons has two potential reasons to answer that question.
“Like we were dealing with Covid, red tide has viruses and other pathogens that may knock it out. So are those pathogens less active right now?” said Dr. Parsons.
“Red tide needs nutrients and light, but there are a lot of other algae out there that need nutrients and light, and usually are better at getting it,” said Dr. Parsons.
Dr. Parsons adds that these two scenarios bring up even bigger questions, such as if this was Ian, global warming, or just slight shifts in winds or currents that we aren’t picking up on.
Despite these questions, we do know that the winds this afternoon and even tomorrow afternoon will be blowing onshore increasing the risk of respiratory illness along most of our beaches.
Unfortunately, Thursday is forecast to see that risk from Sarasota to Collier County. To find out what level of red tide each beach has check out the map below.
City officials are asking residents and visitors to use caution when visiting the areas.
For more information on red tide, and the effects that can stem from it visit our Fox4 website to learn more.