Fourteen days — that’s how long it’s been since red tide swept onto Manatee County beaches.
Since then, the noxious algae bloom has dirtied the water, left thousands of rotting dead fish on shorelines and brought a repugnant smell to the air that makes everyone cough. Just last week it got so bad that the carnage started to make its way into canals and creeks, leaving grisly scenes and terrible odors throughout multiple Manatee neighborhoods.
While Florida red tide, known as Karenia brevis, is touch-and-go daily due to changing wind and current conditions, along with a slew of other factors, Anna Maria Island beaches looked all right on Sunday.
Beaches like Cortez, Coquina and Manatee Public Beach all were devoid of red tide conditions, besides a very slight smell and murkier water. It wasn’t perfect, but it was still a far cry from the awful conditions seen in the past couple of weeks.
But despite the decent conditions, Anna Maria Island beaches were largely empty.
On Cortez Beach, Tampa resident Jennifer McCarthy was one of only a handful of people on the beach. McCarthy says she’s been driving down to Manatee beaches since she was a kid.
“There’s no one here. I’ve never seen it like this,” she said. “People are scared, they have no idea what’s going on. It’s devastating but it’s not going to keep us from coming here, especially since they’re putting in the effort to clean it up. It looks great.”
The county certainly has taken strides to clean beaches of red tide remnants since the bloom’s arrival.
As of Friday afternoon, 151 tons of red-tide related waste has been removed from public beaches and parks, according to county officials.
The county also announced additional plans to bolster cleanup and activated a red tide hotline, like it does during tropical storms, that officials say will be staffed daily, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., while conditions persist. Residents can call with questions about the algae bloom and the cleanup operations, officials said. The number is (941)-749-3547.
Joel Daniels spent some time on Coquina Beach on Sunday with his two daughters. The family is visiting from Detroit and said nothing was going to stop them from going on vacation, not even red tide.
“We were coming regardless,” Daniels said. “I did keep my eye on the red tide on the news and if it would’ve gotten bad we just would’ve went to other beaches.”
But he did say that he saw some of the worst of red tide on Siesta Key and probably would’ve changed his plans if he and his family were staying down there.
Manatee Public Beach saw more visitors than Coquina and Cortez combined, with several people swimming in the water. But the stretch is known to be one of the busiest beaches on the island.
It wasn’t considered busy to Vivian Irizarry, though, who said she likes to come to Manatee from Wesley Chapel because Clearwater Beach “is way too packed.”
“I haven’t been here since last year and it smells a little weird and the water is a little dark but Clearwater Beach is always packed, and you have to park so far away. I would much rather come down here,” Irizarry said.
As of Friday, Manatee County’s red tide count has remained in the high category, which is more than a million cells per liter of K. Brevis.
While Sunday may have given residents hope that the bloom could subside soon, it’s just too early to call. This current bout of red tide, while only in Manatee County these past couple of weeks, has been going since October 2017.
Experts say it could likely get worse before it gets better, too, as the blooms typically hit peak severity in September or October.
Scientists told the Bradenton Herald that a large storm with enough wind and rain could possibly break up with bloom and push it out to sea, but it doesn’t always work.