SEAGROVE BEACH — Red tide has been in area waters for some time, but it has become more evident in recent days and has given some of those famously emerald-green waters a dull yellow-brown tint and fouling some beaches with dead fish and other marine life.
Red tide — the name given to the high concentrations of harmful marine algae Karenia brevis that can deplete oxygen in the water and irritate people's noses, throats and eyes — was particularly prevalent in Seagrove Beach early Friday afternoon. Every few feet along the tide line and even farther up the beach, lay dead fish and eels. The sounds of wind and surf also were intermingled with the sounds of beachgoers' coughs.
Among the few people braving the water while dozens sat in beach chairs were Misty Skelton and her children, 11-year-old Gunner and 12-year-old Finley. They'd been at Seagrove Beach since Tuesday, when the algae blowing onshore chased them off the beach after just 45 minutes.
"That's something we've never done before," Skelton said. "We were very surprised."
Skelton said her family, on vacation from Columbia, Tennessee, knew almost nothing about red tide until they heard other beachgoers mentioning it.
After that, Skelton said, "we probably did the wrong thing. We Googled it."
Still, what the Skeltons learned on the internet wasn't enough to keep them entirely out of the water, although their Friday beach visit had them going out only knee-deep into the surf.
Venture any deeper, they said, and "you're covered in a slime."
The Skeltons had been scheduled to stay in Seagrove Beach until Saturday, but opted to leave late Friday due both to the red tide and to Gunner's Saturday ball game back home.
But the red tide that spoiled part of their vacation "won't keep us from coming back," Skelton said
A few miles west of Seagrove Beach, visitors to Blue Mountain Beach also found themselves contending with red tide late Friday morning.
Among the dozens of people along a quarter-mile stretch of sand was Patrick McAdams, watching over his 11-year-old daughter Taylor and her best friend, 11-year-old Sally Kate Hall. Both girls and McAdams were wearing air-filtering masks that McAdams had picked up at a local hardware store.
"I got a 10-pack for $12," he smiled.
McAdams, visiting from Memphis, was surprised by the red tide.
"I never have seen this before," he said. And then, for a bit of comic relief, he added, "The kids have been trying to catch the dead fish."
McAdams said he has no plans to cut his vacation short, and the two girls didn't seem to mind wearing the air filters as they frolicked in the surf.
Otherwise, Sally said, the red tide "makes my nose run and it makes the back of my throat hurt."
"It makes me sneeze a lot," Taylor added.
As red tide continues to affect beaches on both coasts of Florida, the state's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is expanding its public outreach in tracking the algal blooms.
The FWC announced Thursday that it willprovide a daily interactive map of water-sampling results noting the current status of red tide throughout the state. The online map will augment FWC’s current Wednesday and Friday updates on red tide blooms. The map is available online at https://bit.ly/2CvxzWq. Additional information is available at MyFWC.com/RedTide.
“We are pushing out all we can, when we can, in the spirit of providing the most timely and beneficial information to the public and partners,” FWC Executive Director Eric Sutton said. “We will continually expand efforts to assist during this difficult event.”