TAMPA, Fla. — A new image from NASA is an unmistakable view of earth from outer space. Now, a new shade of blue has emerged in the Gulf of Mexico.
“The picture shows how the Florida peninsula is shedding all the water Hurricane Ian dumped on it,” tweeted astronaut Bob Hines, who posted the photo on Twitter from the International Space Station.
The teal swath shows where the hurricane churned up sediment and closer to the shoreline, and runoff from the storm can be seen accumulating.
“Basically, you see this kind of brown running off from the coast,” explained Spectrum News meteorologist Kyle Hanson. “What that is, is all the runoff from all the rain from Ian, basically making its way into the Gulf, eventually mixing with that salt water.”
Much of the state saw extensive rain, with some places getting more than a foot in just two days, causing major flooding inland as well. Eventually, the water has to go somewhere and what the saturated ground can’t absorb, rivers and streams carry to the Gulf of Mexico.
Shannon Gowans, a professor of biology and marine science at Eckert College, said the concern now is what that water brings with it. Gowans points to nutrient runoff that can lead to harmful algal blooms like red tide, pollutants like fuel from wrecked boats and even household chemicals and other debris from homes and businesses.
“One of the things I’m particularly concerned about is any plastics. Littler that was on the ground, especially things that came out of people’s houses,” said Gowans, whose area of expertise includes microplastics.
It’s hard to say now what exactly the effects will be, but Gowans said a negative impact is hard to avoid.
“The economy of these areas is very often tied to the marine environment,” Gowans said. “Whether that’s through tourism, fisheries. Those things are going to be potentially impacted by what happened.”
And the runoff of water is far from over. Parts of Central Florida are still flooded and Spectrum News meteorologists said it could take weeks for river levels to return to normal.