TAMPA, Fla. — One year after a July that saw many of us forced to stay home and inside because of the pandemic, residents along our coast are having another Florida July that's less than ideal.
This time, of course, it's red tide and dead fish. The stinky and costly, dirty and unattractive images that are the opposite of the St. Pete Beach that's pictured on postcards.
Several hundred tons of dead sea life have been collected from Pinellas waterways. But there appears to be no end in sight, yet plenty of blame to go around.
On the latest episode of our To The Point Already podcast, Spectrum Bay News 9's Rick Elmhorst and Roy DeJesus discuss the status of red tide and the effect it's having on residents and the environment.
They talked with Tyler Carpenter, a resident of Waterside near Coquina Key. Carpenter said the smell became a problem before Elsa moved through but worsened after that.
"After the hurricane came in, we woke up to a canal full of fish," Carpenter said. He added that he called the city and was referred to the county, and vice versa, before being told the responsibility for the canals in his area belonged to a homeowners association.
"Meanwhile, the fish just sat there," he said.
The problem with that approach, Carpenter told us, was that the dead fish and smell eventually scattered into the city anyway.
Alese Underwood, a Spectrum Bay News 9 reporter who joined the station last year, has reported for about a decade in cities across the country. That means she has seen a grizzly scene or two. But even she was taken aback when assigned her first red tide story.
"It was up there with probably the top worst 'reporter on a story smells that I've ever smelled," Underwood said.
Depending on the person, exposure to red tide can cause irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, coughing and wheezing and shortness of breath. The symptoms eventually go away when a person leaves an area with red tide, but De Jesus brought up a valid point when discussing his own recent beach trip. Once you've paid to park, then can't stand the smell, the afternoon (and money) can be a waste.
Dr. Kat Hubbard, of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, noted differenced between this year's bloom and that of 2018.
Hubbard said the 2018 red tide outbreak affected 22 counties along the coast. This year, the most heavily impacted areas are Sarasota, Manatee, Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties.
"The thing that's really different about this particular bloom is the levels that we're seeing in the Bay," Hubbard said. "And then also how far in the Bay it's getting and how long it's been sticking around."
ABOUT THE SHOW
Spectrum Bay News 9 Anchor Rick Elmhorst sits down with the people that represent you, the people fighting for change and the people with fascinating stories to ask the hard questions.
To The Point Already will cover people, politics and issues from a Tampa Bay perspective every Wednesday.