In mid-October, the water was blue, the air was clear and crowds were returning to Anna Maria Island beaches.
After a short reprieve from Karenia brevis, first reported on the island Aug. 4, the Gulf of Mexico and bay waters around the island again tested high for levels of red tide Oct. 29.
A return of the harmful algal bloom red tide might mean fish kills, foul odors and respiratory irritations for some people — an unwelcome start to snowbird season.
“I’ve coughed twice, but I’m so thankful to be living in paradise it doesn’t bother me at all,” Donna Kelly of Bradenton told The Islander Nov. 1.
“The water is beautiful. I couldn’t be happier on my day off from work to be here with my toes in the sand,” Kelly said as she sat on Cortez Beach with friend Charlene Compton.
Likewise, Alex and Oksana Parkhomenko went to enjoy the beach. They had no qualms about frolicking in the surf in spite of the presence of red tide.
“We’ve had a really nice day today. Coughing a little, but it’s OK,” Oksana said as she returned to the water at Coquina Beach. The Louisville, Kentucky, pair were visiting relatives in Lakeland and spent the afternoon at the beach.
Cortez and Coquina beaches in Bradenton Beach tested highest.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission found concentrations higher than 1 million parts per million Oct. 29. The FWC collects about 100 samples daily for testing around the state.
Holmes Beach and Anna Maria’s Bean Point samples tested lower, in the medium range with 100,000-1 million parts per liter of water Oct. 29.
The Mote Marine Beach Report indicated slight respiratory irritation present at Coquina Beach and also Manatee Public Beach, 4000 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, the mornings of Nov. 1 and Nov. 2.
That made little difference to beachgoers.
The FWC and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection met with county partners from across the state Oct. 31 to discuss red tide.
Gov. Rick Scott announced Oct. 31 he would add an additional $765,000 in funding for FWC scientists and for field and laboratory equipment in the effort to help mitigate the impacts of red tide.
The last week of October showed an increase in algae on the east coast of Florida, where it is not typically seen in large concentrations.
Meanwhile, fish kills were reported in Tierra Verde and St. Petersburg Oct. 30, with volunteers cleaning beaches alongside county workers.
On Anna Maria Island, the SandBlast sand-sculpting competition scheduled for Nov. 3 at Manatee Public Beach was postponed by its organizer, Keep Manatee Beautiful.
“We thought it was the thing to do for our contestants and spectators. Three of us went out to the beach to check it out after several schools had expressed concerns about the red tide,” Jennifer Hoffman, executive director of Keep Manatee Beautiful, told The Islander Nov. 2.
“Two of us came back with scratchy throats, runny noses and coughing. We hope to reschedule in January,” Hoffman said.
Red tide is not harmful to people swimming, except in cases where an existing respiratory problem exists. It also is odorless and colorless.
Islander reporter Kathy Prucnell contributed to this report.