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Hurricane Michael Pushes Red Tide Back To Pinellas Beaches

It's been about a month since red tide first made its way to Pinellas County, but not much has been seen in the last few weeks. That was until Hurricane Michael passed through earlier this week and pushed the algae bloom closer to shore.

The bloom never went away, strong winds just pushed it offshore. Now, after the storm, Pinellas County beaches started reporting fish kills, strong odors and respiratory issues again.

Kelli Levy, the county’s director of environmental management, said they were prepared for the storm to make the red tide worse.

"We thought the higher likelihood was that Hurricane Michael was going to have an adverse impact with regard to red tide on our shores," she said.

Levy said crews were sent out early Thursday morning to clean up the fish kill.

“There was no real break as far as 'oh my goodness, there's a mess and it's not getting cleaned up,'" she said.

Friday morning, the county reported that many beaches in the area have strong odors, respiratory irritation and many dead fish. Indian Rocks, Redington, John's Pass and Madeira beaches all have high concentrations of red tide, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Fort DeSoto, Treasure Island and Sunset are the only beaches in the area that didn’t report major signs of red tide.

The Malone family arrived Sunday for a vacation on Indian Rocks Beach.

Mary Malone, who lives in the Catskill Mountains of New York said “we didn’t know about red tide or Hurricane Michael, for that matter, until we arrived.” 

They have adjusted their activities to less beach and more drinking.

“We’re just hanging out in bars, pretty much,” Mary said.

Twice a day, Pinellas County posts a report on the conditions of each beach in the area on its Facebook page so people know what to expect if they plan on visiting.

The county’s websitealso releases a report every other day on its website.

WUSF's Stephen Splane contributed to this story. 

Many Pinellas County beaches reported a high concentration of red tide cells.
Pinellas County /
The Florida Channel
Many Pinellas County beaches reported a high concentration of red tide cells.

Copyright 2018 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Bethany Hanson is a WUSF/USF Zimmerman School digital news reporter for spring 2018.