Red tide, rip current warnings issued by FEMA for coastal Lee County

January 8, 2021
By Marcy Shortuse

STAFF REPORT – As of January 7 FEMA issued two beach hazards statement for coastal Lee County regarding red tide and rip currents.

The FWC reported in their January 6 update that current conditions included a bloom of red tide that persists in Southwest Florida: Background to high concentrations of K. brevis were detected in 25 samples over the past week. Bloom concentrations (>100,000 cells/liter) were observed in 13 samples collected in Lee and Collier counties. The most recent satellite imagery (USF, NOAA) indicates that patches of elevated chlorophyll extend up to 35 miles offshore. Additional details are provided below.

In Southwest Florida over the past week, K. brevis was observed at background to very low concentrations in Charlotte County (in six samples), background to high concentrations in Lee County (in 14 samples), and medium to high concentrations in Collier County (in five samples). Fish kills suspected to be related to red tide were reported in Lee and Collier counties. Respiratory irritation was reported over the past week as well.

Exposure to red tide can cause coughing, sneezing, and tearing eyes. People with asthma,emphysema, or any chronic lung disease may be more sensitive.Irritation may vary by beach and throughout the day. ADDITIONAL DETAILS…Full forecast information-https://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/hab/gomx.html. If you experience symptoms from red tide, it is best to go indoors or not stay directly on the beach. For current conditions and more information go to visitbeaches.org.

Forecasts for prediction of red tides for Pinellas to northern Monroe counties predict variable transport of surface and subsurface waters in most areas over the next four days. For daily sample maps go to myfwc.maps.arcgis.com/apps/View/index.html?appid=87162eec3eb846218cec711d16462a72.

For the high rip current risk, increasingly dangerous rip currents are expected preceding and during a cold front that is coming into our area on Friday, Jan. 8. Gulf Coast regions of Lee County will be affected.

Rip currents can sweep even the best swimmers away from shore into deeper water. If you are caught in a rip current, relax and float. Don’t swim against the current. If able, swim in a direction following the shoreline. If unable to escape, face the shore and call or wave for help.