As the Atlantic coast of Florida grapples with yet another toxic summer, with algae outbreaks devastating the mostly tourist-based economies from Fort Lauderdale to Stuart, the Gulf Coast has been enduring the longest red tide outbreak in over a decade, the harmful algal blooms killing wildlife and hurting businesses and tourism on the West Coast of the Sunshine State.
In August, Florida Gov. Rick Scott issued a state of emergency for seven counties (Charlotte, Collier, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Pinellas and Sarasota), allocating money and resources to combat the red tide outbreak, which has lingered since October. A survey by Visit Sarasota, the official tourism agency for Sarasota County, reported a 6 percent loss in business revenue this year. Meanwhile Hundreds of sea turtles, manatees and dolphins and a whale shark have been recovered in Lee County alone since June, according to USA Today.
With Tropical Storm Gordon making landfall late Tuesday evening, the situation could get worse. Dr. Greg Tolley of Florida Gulf Coast University’s Department of Rain and Ecological Sciences told Lee County news outlet Fox 4 that large storms can prolong algal blooms.
“Any time you have large pulses of rainfall, you worry about extra nutrients coming into coastal waters,” Dr. Tolley said of the nutrients that feed red tide blooms. However, with sustained offshore winds predicted for parts of the Gulf as Gordon blows by, many are hoping for a respite from yet another nasty summer.
“Move the red tide a little offshore, keep the aerosols offshore for a couple of days so people don’t get as sick,” Dr. Tolley told Fox 4 of the predicted offshore gusts. “But I doubt it’s going to be a long term solution to this red tide."
We'll continue to monitor this story and update it as new information comes available. To read more about the history and response to Florida's long-running toxic algae crisis, read our story recapping 2016's outbreak, here.