Monday, November 12, 2018
News Roundup

Red Tide arrives in Pinellas, killing hundreds of thousands of fish

ST. PETERSBURG — Pinellas County environmental officials have reported hundreds of thousands of dead fish on and off the coast of area beaches stretching more than 20 miles from Clearwater to St. Petersburg, confirming that Red Tide has reached the Tampa Bay area.

The first report of fish kills came from the city of Clearwater on Friday, said Kelli Levy, Pinellas’ director of environmental management. Around noon Saturday, the city of St. Petersburg reported "hundreds of thousands" more.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Red Tide’s toxic toll — your questions answered (w/video).

Madeira Beach, Redington Beach and Treasure Island have also been affected, she said. Levy could not provide an overall estimate of how many fish have been found.

Many that floated ashore have been cleaned up by crews from the county and the involved cities that worked throughout the day Saturday. Still, Levy said she expects the clean-up to run through the weekend and into next week, as many dead fish are still floating offshore.

As of Saturday evening, a boat was circling the Intercoastal near Clearwater Pass, scooping hundreds of dead fish off the water’s surface to prevent them from reaching the beach, Levy said. More boats provided through a contractor hired by the county will arrive Sunday morning to help.

The collected fish are put into dumpsters stationed at each beach, and will be taken to the county’s landfill for burial, Levy said.

"It’s a huge community effort of all of us working together," Levy said. "We did a lot today getting logistics in place, tomorrow we’ll have a lot more done, and on Monday and Tuesday, we will be in full operational mode."

RELATED: Why is Red Tide so bad this year? Could dust from the Sahara be to blame?

RELATED: Clues to combating Red Tide are found in mounting manatee carcasses

Small, scattered colonies of microscopic algae live in the Gulf of Mexico all year long. Usually, their numbers are so low they are undetected. But sometimes in the late summer or fall, the algae population 10 to 40 miles off shore explodes into what’s called a bloom. The algae multiply so quickly, covering the water’s surface and staining it with a rusty color — giving the phenomenon its name. Winds and currents push it ashore.

The toxic algae kills fish, as well as sea turtles and manatees. It can have mild affects on humans, too. While it’s usually limited to slight irritation and coughing, it can pose risks for those with asthma and other respiratory problems.

The Red Tide has lingered just south of Pinellas, near the Sarasota area, for weeks.

But by Saturday afternoon, it had reached waters off Pinellas.

RELATED: Recalling the devastating Red Tide of 2005 and dreading a repeat

Andres and Veronica Bernal were lounging on St. Pete Beach late Satuday afternoon when their six-year-old son started screaming.

"He was completely upset and having a total melt down," Andres said.

The sudden emergence of Red Tide surprised the Bernals. Veronica had checked all of the county websites before leaving Tampa around 2 p.m. to see what beach they should go to. Everything said St. Pete Beach was clear so they piled into the car and made the trek.

"I did my research, searched to see if anybody was talking about red tide being at the beach and found nothing," Veronica said. "So we came."

They salvaged their beach outing by limiting their son and four-year-old daughter to play in the sand. The kids were too scared to go in the water with the dead fish around them — and the parents were concerned.

By Saturday evening, the stench of decomposing fish hung in the air.

As the tide went out throughout the day, fish slowly started to come ashore, one after another.

Seagulls lurked by the masses, devouring the carcasses one by one.

Adam Chilbers is visiting from Indianapolis with his friend Justin Borneman who lives in St. Pete. He was disappointed to see the Red Tide — more because he knows the effects it has on the environment — than for swimming.

"It didn’t bother us," Chilbers said. "We dove right in."

Things at Clearwater Beach Saturday night seemed fairly normal, busy with beachgoers and tourists. Levy said most of the dead fish found there had been cleaned up by that time.

At Madeira Beach, however, dead fish dotted the shoreline. Marin Klapuh, 17, came from Seminole to see the sunset with friends and was stunned to see how many there were.

"I had heard about it, but I didn’t know it was going to be this bad," he said. "It’s kind of tragic, to be honest, to see the fish like this."

Contact McKenna Oxenden at [email protected] Follow @mack_oxenden. Contact Megan Reeves at [email protected] Follow @mareeves

   
Comments
USF men trail early, blow late lead, prevail in OT

USF men trail early, blow late lead, prevail in OT

The Bulls blow an 11-point second-half lead before eking out the triumph
Updated: 1 hour ago
Hillsborough Sheriff's deputies investigating woman's death in Lake Egypt Estates

Hillsborough Sheriff's deputies investigating woman's death in Lake Egypt Estates

Hillsborough County Sheriff's deputies responded to the scene of a suspicious death at about 8p.m. Monday in the Lake Egypt Estates neighborhood near Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo.
Updated: 2 hours ago
Buccaneers AfterMath: In Tampa Bay, time is a flat circle

Buccaneers AfterMath: In Tampa Bay, time is a flat circle

Everything the Bucs have ever done or will ever do, they will do over and over and over again.
Updated: 3 hours ago
Update: With cool front on the way, tropical disturbance in the Atlantic looks less likely to form

Update: With cool front on the way, tropical disturbance in the Atlantic looks less likely to form

Increasingly, it looks like a late-season tropical disturbance in the Atlantic Ocean will not develop as forecasters originally thought it might.“This system has not become any better organized over the past 24 hours, and environmental conditi...
Updated: 3 hours ago
State cross country roundup: Riverview’s Alyssa Hendrix, Plant girls triumph

State cross country roundup: Riverview’s Alyssa Hendrix, Plant girls triumph

The state of cross country is strong in Tampa Bay, a sentiment that resounded loud and clear through all four high school classifications on Saturday in Tallahassee.First, the champions.The Class 4A girls race was rife with local gold after Riverview...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Rays Joey Wendle fourth in AL rookie voting

Rays Joey Wendle fourth in AL rookie voting

Rays INF Joey Wendle finished fourth in the AL Rookie of the Year voting.Angels pitcher/DH Shohei Ohtani was the relatively easy winner, despite being limited to 92 games due to injury, getting 25 of the 30 first-place votes from members of the Baseb...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Bucs sign placekicker Cairo Santos

Bucs sign placekicker Cairo Santos

TAMPA — The Bucs signed placekicker Cairo Santos to replace Chandler Catanzaro, the team announced Monday night.Santos will become the Bucs' seventh placekicker since the beginning of the 2015 season.He owns a 84.1 field-goal conversion percent...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Rays Kevin Cash has a case for AL Manager of the Year award

Rays Kevin Cash has a case for AL Manager of the Year award

ST. PETERSBURG – The Rays have already shown their appreciation for the job Kevin Cash did in managing them through roster renovation, injuries and strategic innovation to win 90 games by rewarding him with a contract extension through 2024.Tue...
Updated: 4 hours ago
A couple together, as always

A couple together, as always

This story was first published on April 17, 2010.CLEARWATER — Jimmy Wise, a retired railroad engineer, was out of bed at the first suggestion of sunlight. He threw on an old pair of shorts and hit the beach right outside his condo. Mr. Wise walked th...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Pedestrian killed in crash with wrong-way driver while loading bicycle onto PSTA bus

Pedestrian killed in crash with wrong-way driver while loading bicycle onto PSTA bus

Pinellas County Sheriff's deputies are investigating the death of a pedestrian who was killed by an out-of-control vehicle while hitching a bicycle to the front of a county bus.
Updated: 5 hours ago