How a new Florida law affects public beach access

A new law governing who can play on private beaches triggered a tidal wave of ire this year from groups fearful it will limit one of Florida’s most dearly held rights — public beach access.

Beginning July 1, local governments won’t be able to just pass a rule forcing private beach owners to allow surfers, sunbathers and shell seekers on their parcel of sand.

Instead, a municipality that wants to give people the ability to stroll through a private beach will have to seek a judge’s approval to enforce a rarely-used “customary use” law that refers to the general right of the public to use dry sand areas in Florida for recreation.

It’s a distinction that proponents argue is much ado about nothing – a tweak targeting an ongoing feud in the Panhandle’s Walton County between private beach owners angry about untoward activity by public beach goers on sand they own in front of their homes.

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“People jumped on this like the sky was falling and totally misrepresented it,” said Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, who sponsored the Senate version of the bill. “If a community wanted to stop someone from roping off their beach, they can stop them by going through the process in the law.”

Still, tourism and wildlife preservation groups, including the Palm Beach County Tourist Development Council, are wary of the repercussions of the legal change, worried it will embolden private beach owners to restrict access and offend visitors.

“We are very much concerned,” said Glenn Jergensen, head of the Palm Beach County Tourist Development Council. “Beaches are what we are all about in Palm Beach County. We have 47 miles and it’s the number one activity people come here for.”

According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the state has 825 miles of sandy beach. Spokeswoman Dee Ann Miller said DEP does not know how much of that is privately owned.

Check The Palm Beach Post live radar.

Palm Beach County owns 4.7 miles of beach frontage, while individual cities also have their own beaches, including 5 miles in Boca Raton, 1.3 miles of municipal beach in Delray Beach, 1,300 feet in Lake Worth, 960 feet in Boynton Beach and 750 feet in Lantana. The amount of privately-owned beach property in Palm Beach County was not immediately available through the property appraiser’s office.

Owners of private beaches are entitled to the sand on the landward side of the mean high tide line, while the public maintains access seaward of the mean high tide line.

In areas where public beaches are immediately adjacent to private beaches, it’s not uncommon for people to wander onto private property on walks, or even to set up beach chairs and coolers. On wide beaches the public use is typically not a problem, as it’s not occurring right up against the private owner’s home and there’s plenty of beach to go around.

Yellow rope marks off a rectangular section of the beach behind a building in Palm Beach, south of the Lake Worth Pier, Tuesday, May 1, 2018. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

But on beaches that aren’t regularly renourished or where there are many public access points with parking that offers an easy path to private beaches, it’s become a concern, Passidomo said.

“There have been some disputes as to where the property line is and it’s becoming more of a discussion in communities that are not renourishing and where there is very little sand between the ocean and the land,” Passidomo said. “The bill bears in mind that it is paramount that the public has access, but the local government needs to establish it through a process.”

The Florida Supreme Court has stated that the general public may continue to use the dry sand area of a beach for recreational activities if they have used the beach without interruption for many years.

Three counties have enacted customary use ordinances to maintain public access to private beach areas, including Walton, Volusia and St. Johns. Volusia and St. Johns had their ordinances grandfathered in, but Walton’s was abolished by the bill that becomes state law July 1.

Jay Liles, a policy consultant for the Florida Wildlife Federation, said the legal change puts more of a burden on local governments, and worries private beach owners may be encouraged to rope off their property or put up no trespassing signs because of the law.

“It’s not a step in the right direction as far as we’re concerned,” Liles said. “The only way I know to enforce private property is to put up a sign, and that’s just an off-putting signal to anyone visiting our beaches.”

Some Palm Beach County private beach owners said they have no intention of roping off their sand. Representatives from The Breakers Palm Beach and the Four Seasons Resort in Palm Beach said the law won’t affect their current beach operations.

Developer Jeff Greene, who owns Tideline Resort & Spa in Palm Beach, said he’d never rope off the beach because part of the appeal is people-watching and taking an oceanfront stroll.

“It gives it a certain energy when people are walking by the hotel,” Greene said. “People are walking to the Four Seasons or to Lake Worth Beach, people are playing in the water. It’s nice visually.”

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Storms continue to about 8 p.m., then sunshine for weekend

Update 4:42 p.m.: The National Weather Service expects the storms spread across Palm Beach County to last through at least 8 p.m. before tapering off.

The cold front pushing the storms is forecast to move into the Florida Straits overnight, with drier air filtering in behind.

Mostly clear skies are forecast for Saturday and Sunday with highs in the mid 80s.

Check The Palm Beach Post live radar.

Update 4:24 p.m.: Strong thunderstorms in northwestern Palm Beach County have triggered a significant weather advisory for areas including Palm Beach Gardens, Pahokee, Canal Point, The Acreage and Jupiter Farms.

The advisory is in effect until 5 p.m.

The severe thunderstorm warning for northeastern Palm Beach County has been canceled.

Earlier today, a tornado warning was issued for areas in northeast Broward County and southeast Palm Beach County.

The National Weather Service says a trained weather spotter saw a tornado, but it is a preliminary report that has not been confirmed.

Update 4:09 p.m.: A thunderstorm warning is in effect until 4:45 p.m. for northeastern Palm Beach County.

Forecasters are watching a thunderstorm over Loxahatchee Groves near Wellington that is moving northeast at 10 mph. Cities affected are Wellington, West Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, Riviera Beach and Palm Beach.

Concerns include winds up to 60 mph, small hail and lightning.

Check The Palm Beach Post live radar.

Update 3:50 p.m.: A significant weather advisory has been issued for central and northeastern Palm Beach County, including Wellington, West Palm Beach, Jupiter, Palm Beach Gardens, Palm Beach and Lake Park.

The advisory is in effect through 4:30.

Small hail, funnel clouds and winds in excess of 45 mph are possible with thunderstorms moving northeast.

 

Update 3:30 p.m.: A large area of storms is over Palm Beach County approaching the coast with showers expected from Boca Raton to Jupiter.

Check The Palm Beach Post live radar.

The National Weather Service says there is a preliminary report of a tornado touching down in the Coral Springs and Margate area of Broward County earlier today. The tornado was reported by an NWS-trained spotter, but has not been confirmed by meteorologists.

National Weather Service meteorologists believe the worst of the storms will be finished just after 8 p.m.

A marine warning is in effect until 4:15 p.m. for coastal waters from Jupiter Inlet to Deerfield Beach.

At 3:44 p.m., severe thunderstorms capable of producing waterspouts were located along a line extending from near Palm Beach Shores to Deerfield Beach moving northeast at 17 mph.

Update 3:15 p.m.: The afternoon storms are approaching the western communities of Palm Beach County as the sea breeze interacts with west winds ahead of a cold front.

Forecasters said some severe storms are possible this afternoon into evening with hail, gusty winds and a small chance of isolated tornadoes.

A severe thunderstorm warning for southeastern Palm Beach County will expire at 3:30 p.m.

Check The Palm Beach Post live radar.

Update 2:57 p.m.: A severe thunderstorm warning has been issued for southeastern Palm Beach County including Boca Raton and Delray Beach.

The tornado warning has been canceled. The thunderstorm warning is in effect through 3:30 p.m.

Check The Palm Beach Post live radar.

The thunderstorm was located over Coconut Creek moving east at 10 mph.

Concerns include 60 mph wind gusts, hail and lightning.

More thunderstorms are expected this afternoon into early evening as a cold front approaches South Florida.

Meteorologists at the National Weather Service in Miami said the atmosphere is primed for more severe storms, and there is a chance of isolated tornadoes.

The front should move into the Florida Straits overnight.

Update 2:40 p.m.: The National Weather Service has issued a tornado warning for southeastern Palm Beach County.

The warning is in effect until 3:15 p.m. A tornado warning means a tornado was spotted on radar or on the ground.

Forecasters said the tornado was over Parkland moving east at 10 mph, which puts areas of Boca Raton in its potential path.

Forecasters in Miami are saying radar is showing rotation as westerly winds interact with South Florida’s sea breeze.

The Storm Prediction Center had increased South Florida’s risk level for severe weather to marginal earlier today.

Update 1:50 p.m.: The risk for severe weather this afternoon in South Florida has been escalated to “marginal” by the Storm Prediction Center.

The marginal level is the lowest on a five-tier scale.

Forecasters said they increased the risk level because of higher moisture levels measured in the upper atmosphere by the National Weather Service office in Key West. That moisture will likely spread northeast, creating the possibility for a few strong storms capable of marginally severe hail and locally damaging winds.

Check The Palm Beach Post live radar.

Scattered thunderstorms are forecast to develop late afternoon into early evening over the east coast metro areas of South Florida.

Some of the storms could be strong with winds gusting to 45 mph and small hail.

“Can’t rule out the possibility of one or two storms becoming severe, more likely due to wind rather than hail,” Miami meteorologists wrote in an afternoon discussion. “Tornado risk appears to be none to very low, but always need to watch sea breeze and boundary collisions.”

Previous story: A cold front approaching South Florida today puts thunderstorms and lightning in the afternoon forecast, before a weekend return to mostly clear skies.

The front is attached to a low pressure system moving off the northeast coast today. It increases rain chances to 50 percent this afternoon, and National Weather Service forecasters are warning of some strong thunderstorms with the possibility of lightning, small hail and gusty winds.

Check The Palm Beach Post live radar.

Forecast location of cool front at 8 p.m. tonight.

Miaimi meteorologists said the focus of the showers will be along the east coast with southwest winds from the front pushing against an afternoon sea breeze.

The front is expected to move into the Florida Straits overnight with high pressure nudging in behind.

Related: Top 5 lightning strike myths and how to stay safe in a storm. 

That means drier air and clear skies for the weekend, but not cooler temperatures.

Daytime highs will remain seasonably normal for this time of year in the low to mid 80s, with overnight lows hovering around 70.

The rain is still needed in South Florida with Thursday’s drought monitor report extending areas of severe drought into Collier and Lee counties.

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Palm Beach County continues to have moderate drought in the western areas and near Lake Okeechobee, while the drought has modified to “abnormally dry” along the coast.

Drought monitor report released April, 26 2018.

While the threat of rip currents should remain low along both coasts this weekend, Collier County beaches are under a hazard alert for possible respiratory problems relating to red tide.

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Expert suspects 300-pound tiger shark died after fight with fishermen

Florida Atlantic University shark expert Stephen Kajiura said he suspects the tiger shark found washed up on Juno Beach died after a battle with fishermen.

Kajiura, whose students performed the necropsy on the estimated 300-pound shark, said he will have more information later today, but that the no outward signs of injury point to exhaustion as a possible cause.

“The recreational fishermen no doubt enjoy the sport of shark fishing, but need to recognize that these animals are not able to handle the physiological stress of fighting on a line for an extended time,” Kajiura said. “They likely released it thinking it was OK, but it was probably near exhaustion and died from stress soon afterwards.”

Justin Rice and his girlfriend Olga Breise, of Tequesta, often walk Juno Beach in the morning. They didn’t see the tiger shark Tuesday, but said it was upsetting to learn about the death.

“There aren’t a lot of big breeders out there so to see a shark this large dead isn’t good,” Rice said.

Update 1:55 p.m.: Florida Atlantic University shark researchers are performing a necropsy on a large tiger shark that washed ashore on Juno Beach.

The shark, which is estimated to be 300 pounds and about 6-feet long, had no outward signs of injury, said Carol Lyn Parrish, a spokeswoman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Parrish said the shark has a tag, but it’s unclear what group was tracking it.

Video: South Florida man bit by shark, catches shark, says he’ll eat it

“Those have been removed and we’ll find out if it’s us, NOAA or one of these other private entities,” Parrish said. “Right now, they are collecting biological data from the shark to determine it’s cause of death.”

Parrish said it’s unclear who will remove the shark or whether the university might want to take the carcass for research.

“We don’t think the cause of death will be determined for some time, but we will share that information when it becomes available,” Parrish said.

Related: Florida is great white shark winter stomping grounds

Previous story: A large shark washed ashore in Juno Beach was found this morning by curious dogs and beach goers who snapped photos of the unusual sight.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said it is not investigating the situation at this time.

“It’s not uncommon for sharks to wash ashore,” said Carol Lyn Parrish, a spokeswoman for FWC. “Typically, as far as removal, it’s up to the city or local municipality to remove the carcass.”

Parrish said there are some occasions when the agency may have to collect biological data from an animal, but that a shark is not handled the same way a dead sea turtle or manatee would be.

A call to Palm Beach County Ocean Rescue at Juno Beach was not immediately returned.

10/5/2000—-BIMINI, BAHAMANS–A shark passes by during a shark dive with the Shark Lab crew from the Bimini Biological Field Station. Snorklers are hanging on to an anchor line observing as sharks feed on chum thrown into the water. Staff photo by Bob Shanley.

Will wet, windy weather dampen Easter egg hunts, Trump golf?

President Donald Trump is scheduled to arrive in Palm Beach to mostly clear skies Thursday evening with sunshine persistent through the weekend.

President Donald Trump talks to a caddie during a round of golf at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Florida on April 8, 2017.

But chances of sporadic spring showers could still dampen golf outings and Easter egg hunts.

A high pressure system centered over the Great Lakes is forecast to move northeast gradually through Saturday keeping northeast to easterly winds pushing moisture onshore in South Florida.

Check The Palm Beach Post radar map.

That means a slight chance of showers is expected through the next few days with the highest chance Friday night at 40 percent.

It also means strong rip currents along Atlantic beaches. The National Weather Service in Miami has issued a high risk of rip currents that will likely continue as winds stay in the double digits into Sunday with gusts as high as 25 mph Saturday.

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“The weather pattern looks to continue to be somewhat active through the forecast period,” Miami meteorologists wrote Thursday. “Mainly, the flow around the high will bring a slight chance to a chance of showers every couple of days.”

How much rain any area will get is unlikely to sate the dry conditions, which have left about 60 percent of Palm Beach County in a moderate drought.

See what’s happening this weekend in Palm Beach County on our Things To Do page

Higher humidity, however, will help reduce the rampant spread of wildfires through the state. On Thursday, about 75 active wildfires were being fought statewide.

The sporadic showers and clouds will keep temperatures slightly below normal for Palm Beach, with a high Friday of 77 degrees, reaching then to 78 Saturday and 79 Sunday.

The hour-by-hour forecast Sunday for Palm Beach shows the highest chances of rain at just 14 percent between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m., dropping to 12 percent after that.

But it will be windy. Sustained winds are expected to be from the east at up to 17 mph by noon with gusts as high as 23 mph.

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Temperatures drop at least 15 degrees after front, but will it last all weekend?

A late season cold front brought the promised chilly temperatures Friday morning after the heat soared to 89 degrees on Thursday at Palm Beach International Airport.

It was southwest winds that pumped in warm air before northerly winds behind the front pushed the mix of Rocky Mountain and Canadian air through.

By Friday morning, temperatures had dropped to 61 in Palm Beach, 58 in suburban Boca Raton and 59 in Jupiter. That’s cooler than normal, but no where near record cold.

On April 7, 1891 the low temperature dropped to 39 degrees in West Palm Beach, according the National Weather Service records.

Check The Palm Beach Post radar map.

Temperatures as of 7:30 a.m. Friday, April 7 2017.

But the below normal temperatures are expected to last through the weekend with lots of sunshine and nearly no chances of rain until Sunday when a slight chance of showers creeps into the forecast.

Download the Palm Beach Post WeatherPlus app here.

Overnight lows Friday into Saturday may dip into the mid-50s in coastal Palm Beach County with inland temperatures dropping into the 40s.

That’s well below the overnight normals for early April of 65 degrees.

On Saturday, coastal Palm Beach County should see high temperatures between 76 degrees and 80 degrees. While 80 is about normal for this time of year, the low humidity will make it feel more crisp than it actually is.

With the low temperatures and drier air also comes concerns about wildfires.

Related: Homes, RVs destroyed by possible tornado as cold front rolls through Florida 

An unusually long dry spell that has left many areas of Palm Beach County with a rain deficit of 8 inches, combined with low relative humidity and gusty winds means any fire that starts will have prime conditions to become an inferno.

The National Weather Service in Miami issued a red flag fire warning for Palm Beach County through Friday night and in the western areas of South Florida through Saturday. Forecasters are asking residents not to do any outside burning.

Rip current risks were low Friday, but as winds turn out of the east, they may increase through the weekend and into next week.

 

 

Update: Vero Beach hits record 91, Melbourne 92 before Friday cool down

Temperatures are forecast to plummet into the 50s Friday morning after July-like days Wednesday and Thursday.

The National Weather Service in Miami forecast 89 degrees for Palm Beach International Airport before the Friday cool-down.

The weather will be only slightly cooler for coastal Palm Beach, which is expected to see highs of 86 Wednesday and Thursday as a breezy south wind pulls moist tropical air into South Florida.

On Tuesday, an overnight heat record was tied in Fort Lauderdale when temperatures dipped to just 76 degrees. In West Palm Beach, the morning low Tuesday dipped to 73 degrees. That’s nine degrees above normal, but not a record-breaker.

Check The Palm Beach Post radar map.

“Right now, we’re not forecasting anything for Palm Beach to be broken,” said NWS meteorologist Larry Kelly about record highs and lows. “But that can always change depending on the timing of the front.”

A low pressure system expected to incite severe weather in the southeast Wednesday will begin to shift winds to the southwest throughout the day Thursday as its counter-clockwise swirl lifts northeast through the Ohio Valley.

While Thursday is again expected to be 5 to 10 degrees above normal for this time of year, it will begin to cool down after the front passes with lows overnight Thursday dipping to the low 60s in Palm Beach and 50s inland.

Satellite image of building severe weather in the southeast ahead of cold front expected to move through South Florida on Thursday.

The normal high temperature for early April is 80 degrees, with a normal overnight low of 65 degrees.

Download the Palm Beach Post WeatherPlus app here.

“On Thursday, the front will push through South Florida, which will enhance a few showers and storms during the day,” forecasters wrote in a discussion Wednesday. “East coast urban areas should see Thursday as the warmest day, when southwesterly winds could boos temperatures a few degrees before the cold front crosses.”

This map shows the front approaching South Florida at 8 a.m. Thursday. Rain chances pick up after 1 p.m.

Winds will shift to the northwest Thursday afternoon and continue into Friday, pulling down cold northern air, which is a mix of Rocky Mountain coolness and Canadian chill.

President Donald Trump may arrive Thursday at the same time as the showers ahead of the cold front.  Trump is scheduled to arrive at Palm Beach International Airport sometime after 2 p.m., when a FAA temporary flight restriction goes into effect.

That’s also when rain chances jump to near 50 percent and the strongest winds will be gusting to  more than 20 mph.

But the rain is expected to make a quick entrance and exit, with “abundant” dry air behind it that will linger through the weekend.

Trump, and Chinese President Xi Jinping, should have a pleasant weekend with low relative humidity and high temperatures Saturday and Sunday in the low 70s.

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Update: Thunderstorms possible today, cold front pushes through late in week

Update: The Storm Prediction Center has identified Florida as an area for possible thunderstorms today with the National Weather Service forecasting up to a 40 percent chance of rain in some areas.

Forecasters in Miami said if thunderstorms do erupt, they will likely be clustered toward the interior of the state in the afternoon.

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This map is valid for Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017.

Today’s forecast from the National Weather Service:

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Previous story: South Florida will bask in April-like temperatures this week before a cold front moves through to knock the heat back to more of what’s normal for February.

Today’s high is expected to reach 81 degrees in West Palm Beach, with Wednesday hitting a high of 85 degrees. That’s 9 degrees above normal.

Check The Palm Beach Post radar map.

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What’s warming things up are south winds ahead of an approaching cold front that is expected to push through the state overnight Thursday.

And it’s not just Florida that will feel warm. Accuweather is forecasting record-challenging warm temperatures throughout the northeast ahead of the cold front. Areas in Maryland and Virginia could see highs 20 degrees above normal.

“Even though Punxsutawney Phil called for six more weeks of winter, to many in the Southeast it will feel more like mid-April than early February for a brief period this week,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Faith Eherts said.

Download the Palm Beach Post WeatherPlus app here.

This map is valid as of 8 a.m. Thursday and shows the cold front in North Florida. It should move through the state by early Friday.
This map is valid as of 8 a.m. Thursday and shows the cold front in North Florida. It should move through the state by early Friday.

The south-southwest winds, which will blow warm tropical air into South Florida, will also increase the chances of spotty showers throughout the week,  but no day has more than a 20 percent chance of rain.

By Friday, the high temperature is expected to reach just 73 degrees, a full 12 degrees below Wednesday’s high.

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The Storm Prediction Center is giving areas of North and Central Florida an increased chance severe weather Thursday as the cold front moves down the Peninsula.

Areas that include the Panhandle and Jacksonville have a marginal chance of severe weather, which is the first level on a 5-tier threat level.

At this point, South Florida is not included in any of the center’s warning areas, but that could change as the week progresses.

This map is valid for Wednesday and Thursday.
This map is valid for Wednesday and Thursday.

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South Florida can offer world class waves, Mother Nature permitting

The same monster storm that rocked a cruise ship off the coast of the Carolinas on Sunday created a surfer’s paradise in Palm Beach County.

Scores of surfers and photographers flocked to the traditionally lackluster waves of Palm Beach for Monday’s unusual swell created by a low-pressure system dubbed Mars by The Weather Channel.

Dan Gregoria, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said the swells Monday were the biggest so far this season.

“It was the northeast winds from that big storm that really brought that swell here,” Gregoria said. “It’s peaking right now, but there will still be some (Tuesday).”

Locally, west winds of up to 18 mph smoothed corduroy-like rolls in the ocean Monday as overhead waves broke in barrels down the beach.

“This can be a world-class spot,” said Kohl Francoeur, who was surfing south of the Lake Worth Inlet off Palm Beach. “I’d say it’s 3 feet overhead.”

Surfer gets towed into a wave off Palm Beach on Monday.
Surfer gets towed into a wave off Palm Beach on Monday.

A severe risk of rip currents was issued by the National Weather Service through today. A small-craft advisory is also in effect through today.

The swell is expected to diminish midweek as the low-pressure system moves farther north and out to sea.

The National Weather Service reported waves breaking at about 8 feet Monday in Palm Beach, and dropping to 5 feet in Miami Beach.

On Sunday, the Royal Caribbean ship Anthem of the Seas was battered by hurricane-force winds from the storm. The ship ultimately returned to port in New Jersey and refunded passengers their fares.

Stinky weed blankets some Palm Beach County beaches

Tangled mats of seaweed a foot deep in some areas are blanketing parts of Palm Beach County’s shoreline, a product of strong winds that are expected to ratchet up again this weekend.

The sargassum, a floating rain forest, turtle nursery and seabird smorgasbord, is forced onto beaches by easterly breezes and was noticed in abundance last week by beachgoers after 15 to 28 mph winds buffeted the coast for six days.

In some areas the seaweed is so thick — and stinky — it’s driving sun-seekers away. Decaying seaweed releases hydrogen sulfide, which is described as smelling similar to rotten eggs.

Thick mats of seaweed with trash tangled throughout it cover parts of the beach about a hundred yards south of Midtown Beach in Palm Beach Wednesday morning, December 16, 2015. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)
Thick mats of seaweed with trash tangled throughout it cover parts of the beach about a hundred yards south of Midtown Beach in Palm Beach Wednesday morning, December 16, 2015. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

West Palm Beach resident John Garrison said he usually frequents Juno Beach, but a plethora of seaweed was spoiling the experience. On Tuesday Garrison was found enjoying a freshly groomed Midtown beach in Palm Beach, where, beyond the reach of sand sweepers, thick tangles of seaweed spotted with garbage covered the sand.

“The weed has gotten pretty thick up there,” Garrison said about Juno Beach. “When it gets too thick, the odor can be overwhelming.”

Spikes in sargassum growth were recognized about five years ago. From Mexico to Barbados, tourism officials are coping with copious amounts of seaweed.

Read the full Palm Beach Post story to find out why seaweed is causing big problems in the Caribbean.

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