Red tide growing off Southwest Florida coast after Ian

Reporter: Emma Heaton
Published: Updated:
Red tide is showing up along the Southwest Florida coast after Ian. (CREDIT: WINK News)

Hurricane Ian left its mark on almost all of Southwest Florida.

And a big part of that damage went to our water quality.

Red tide started growing off the coast after the storm.

FGCU Water School Professor Mike Parsons said the main concern about red tide is the toxins in the air.

If you’re down at the beach and you kind of feel the sea spray in the air or on your skin, the red tide toxins can be mixed in with the air you’re breathing in, and that could cause respiratory irritation.

It could cause a cough, which for people with asthma, can be dangerous.

But then again, most Gulf Coast beaches aren’t considered safe after Ian, anyway.

Many beaches in Southwest Florida are dirty and damaged.

“The big question with the hurricane would be, how it influences the nutrients for our coastal waters and how that would affect red tide,” Parsons said.

Red tide is something that often shows up after a hurricane.

Ian was no exception but not necessarily to blame.

“I think one thing to stress is that red tide is a natural phenomenon,” Parsons said.

Red tide started showing up about six days ago. Now, there is a higher concentration of it.

“The two questions are, how much of it is the cell division factor, how much of it is the currents bringing more of it in from offshore and spreading it out? So basically, a combination of taking these water samples along the coastline. And then looking at some of the modeling that University of South Florida does, where you can see the ocean currents and combination you can kind of get a sense of is it the ocean currents spreading it around? Is it the cells dividing? And so it’s a combination of both usually,” Parsons said.

Parsons said he and other scientists are working hard to find out how to mitigate the spread of red tide.

The problem is by the time it’s detected, it’s usually too big.

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