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Tropical Storm Gordon Impacts SWFL Red Tide

Julie Glenn

Now that the water’s settled after Tropical Storm Gordon passed through Southwest Florida, scientists are testing to see if the system’s winds were enough to dissipate the red tide that’s choked the area’s coast. 

Water samples taken just after the storm passed are promising to Dr. Rick Bartleson with the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation.  He tested near-shore waters and found a significant drop in Karenia Brevis, the organism responsible for red tide.

“For example at the beach last week we had over 10-million cells per liter and today, and yesterday, we’ve had under one million cells per liter,” he said.

Bartleson says pushing the red tide out to sea and breaking up concentrated areas is a good start, but excessive rain, run-off and continued threats of more nutrient-laden Lake Okeechobee releases could fuel a return of the toxic algae.

“So, it’s possible we might just have a reprieve; we don’t know yet,” he said.

As far as fish kills, area beaches haven’t seen nearly as much dead sea life washing up in recent weeks, but Bartleson says that’s not because the red tide had gone away.

“The concentrations were still high enough to kill the fish, but there weren’t any fish around to kill,” he said.