What will Hurricane Michael do to red tide?

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Over the weekend, tourists and residents did something odd by recent southwest Florida standards: They enjoyed the beach. 

Red tide has plagued beaches for the last several months as it permeates a horrendous stench and makes the water unsafe to enter for both humans and marine life. 

“The air is not the same,” Frank Rush said, a visitor at Miramar Beach. “It’s got a little smell. Especially today, it kicked up a little more than yesterday.” 

The impact has also been economical. Residents and tourist have mostly avoided beaches in large numbers. It has caused a significant decline in revenue for many businesses over the last couple of months. 

Marine life, such as whales and sea turtles, have been showing up on beach shores all along southwest Florida. They are among the many casualties from the red tide toxins. 

In recent weeks, red tide has seemingly been on the decline. But the southwest Florida community is worried progress made will be eroded as Hurricane Michael may revive the environmental disaster, leading to the question: What will Hurricane Michael do to red tide? 

“Hurricanes have been known to disperse blooms to the point where it doesn’t come back,” Dr. Richard Pierce said, a senior scientist at MOTE Marine Laboratory & Aquarium in Sarasota. “They’ve also been known to mix things up and maybe get more nutrients available, so after a hurricane more red tide is there.” 

Hurricane Michael has increased in severity over the last 48 hours. Models show it will make landfall by Wednesday. But there isn’t a consensus from experts as to how the hurricane will impact the red tide environmental disaster in SWFL. 

“You just don’t know what will happen anymore,” Pierce said.

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