Environmental Experts Warn of Deadly Red Tide Returning After Hurricane Ian

by Emily Morgan
Photo by: TriggerPhoto

After Hurricane Ian ripped through Florida’s gulf coast, residents and officials are beginning to clean up the catastrophic damage. Now, a new threat is hurling toward its shores: red tide.

For many Floridians, red tide was expected as last year’s Hurricane Irma left piles of dead fish along the shoreline. A state-wide warning kept beachgoers out of the water for two years as the outbreak tormented the environment.

“Any time we get a regular storm event, we have all of this nutrient loading from fertilizer or herbicides or wastewater overflows,” Tracy Fanara, Environmental Engineer and author of red tide research, told news outlets. “Now, this was next level.”

According to experts, red tide is a naturally occurring harmful algae bloom. The algae, always present in the water, feast on the nutrients, and its blooms go out of control. The blooms later produce toxins that kill fish, shellfish, birds, and other mammals.

The consequences of ride tide on our environment

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, algae and toxins can irritate the skin, eyes, and respiratory system if someone is exposed.

In addition, you can get sick after eating fish or shellfish from red tide areas.

“So with Hurricane Ian, we have all of these chemical components. We have submerged cars, we have so much more bacteria because not only did we have wastewater overflows, we had pipes burst. We have people that can’t flush toilets because the water table is so high. So they’re actually using outside as their toilet,” said Fanara about Hurricane Ian’s effects on drastically altering the nutrients available to algae.

“So we have all of this bacteria coming into our coastal waters. And that is our main concern right now is the bacteria levels, the pathogen levels.”

However, it’s not just Florida’s shoreline that’s been overwhelmed with this type of floodwater. Per reports, over seven million gallons of sewage seeped through manhole covers, flooded streets in Brevard County then into the Indian River Lagoon.

Astronaut captures devastating amounts of dirt, silt in Gulf of Mexico following Hurricane Ian

“When I look at this now, I just see it being used as a toilet,” environmentalist Estelle Bailey said.

While astronaut Bob “Farmer” Hines was onboard the International Space Station, he shot photos that showed extreme amounts of dirt and silt being poured into the Gulf of Mexico days after Hurricane Ian ripped through the state.

The water and dirt are prevalent with decomposing trees, farm fertilizers, and pollutants.

“This picture shows how the Florida Peninsula is shedding all the water Hurricane Ian dumped on it,” Hines tweeted, adding the photo he shot two days after Ian made landfall.

In addition, the Tampa Bay area also underwent a reverse storm surge, similar to what they experienced during Irma’s destruction.

As Ian hit, its winds blasted gulf water away from Tampa Bay, and residents could walk out into the bay.