New test results for Karenia brevis in Palm Beach County show lower concentrations from the Palm Beach Inlet to Boca Raton.
The results, released Wednesday, were from samples taken Tuesday, according to the state’s red tide status map.
All of the samples showed low levels of the algae that shut down beaches last week and forced lifeguards to don masks to protect from breathing in the toxic cells that can cause coughing, watery eyes and wheezing.
“We just want to proceed carefully and make a good informed decision,” said Wally Majors, Boynton Beach Recreation and Park Department director. “Standing here, I’m having no problems at all, but when we are dealing with people who are elderly or might have medical conditions, we want to err on the side of caution.”
Majors said he’s seen no test results off Boynton’s coastline and doesn’t know if any have been taken.
Eleven water samples taken from Palm Beach Inlet to Jupiter Inlet tested positive for low to moderate levels of Karenia brevis.
UPDATE 5 p.m.: A state team of biologists will investigate a fish kill reported today at MacArthur Beach State Park.
According to a press release:
Parks staff is working to perform clean-up as quickly as possible, while coordinating with FWC to investigate any potential causes. To date, at Governor Scott’s direction, DEP has distributed grant funding of more than $10 million to support efforts in impacted counties to mitigate and combat red tide.
UPDATE 4:45 p.m.: Most Palm Beach County beaches will remain closed Thursday, with the exception of Phil Foster Park, Peanut Island and Ocean Ridge Hammock.
Officials said this afternoon that people are still complaining of scratchy throats and wheezing – symptoms of a red tide that was found in low to moderate quantities in waters from Palm Beach Inlet to Jupiter Inlet.
Also, “limited fish kills on some beaches” have been reported.
To report a fish kill, call the FWC’s hotline at 800-636-0511.
UPDATE: The Florida Department of Environmental Protection said dead fish are being cleaned up off of MacArthur Beach Beach State Park and will be tested for red tide.
The park is closed. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will test for the Karenia brevis toxin to see if that was the cause of death.
Previous story: Palm Beach County is posting specially-made signs warning of red tide at its beaches today, which remain closed as lifeguards continue to report coughing, scratchy throats and watery eyes.
Aquatics director Laurie Schobelock said the new vinyl signs being made by the county’s sign shop will be posted at beach information boards and at beach entrances if there are extra.
She said the county is getting a few calls reporting dead fish, but that she was at Juno Beach this morning and didn’t see dead fish. She did feel the red tide-induced scratch in her throat and said it was a little sore until she returned to her office.
These dead fish washed up at Boynton Inlet. We’re hearing reports of dead fish at other locations too. Checking for possible link to the red tide that’s shown up on our coast in recent days. @CBS12pic.twitter.com/Ajsag1FPNy
New red tide test results are expected today from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, but it’s unknown if they will include information beyond what was released Monday that showed low to moderate levels of Karenia brevis at 11 sites tested.
“The biggest thing is if anyone is having any sort of respiratory issue they should stay away from the beaches,” Schobelock said. “Exercise caution and be aware this is going on.”
Delray Beach resident Harvey Latidus said he walked his dog this morning near Atlantic Avenue and felt what he likened to “tear gas.”
He was concerned there were no signs explaining what was happening.
“It got me good this morning,” he said. “They have the red flags out so they don’t want you in the water, but there are no signs, there’s nothing. The city could send a flier or give notice to people in regards to this.”
Red tide, which grows in saltwater, is naturally occurring in the Gulf of Mexico. This summer, onshore winds pushed the toxin close to beaches that were fouled by massive fish kills, as well as dead manatees, turtles and dolphins.
How the red tide got to Palm Beach County is still a matter of debate, although the general theory is it got caught in the Florida Current, which runs through the Florida Straits into the Gulf Stream.
Richard Stumpf, a NOAA oceanographer who tracks algae blooms by satellite, said a red tide bloom passed west of the Marquesas Keys, which are west of Key West, in mid-September. Following that, a mild algae bloom formed offshore of the upper Keys and stretched west to the Gulf Stream.
“That moved through the Palm Beach area over the weekend when you had strong easterly winds,” Stumpf said. “The winds would help accumulate cells at the shore concentrating them from a mild to a dense bloom.”
Malcolm McFarland, a research associate at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in Fort Pierce, said the natural currents didn’t look like they were in the right place to pick up the red tide in the Gulf of Mexico.
“It could be a local bloom entirely separate from what’s happening on the west coast,” McFarland said. “And that would be even more interesting.”
The National Hurricane Center declared Leslie a hurricane this morning as it gathered up its thunderstorms enough to develop a ragged eye overnight with 75 mph winds.
Leslie is sending large swells to Florida, but is not a direct threat to the U.S. It is notable in that it has undergone multiple transformations to gain hurricane status and keeps the season above normal in terms of activity.
Leslie is the 12th named storm this season, when the climatological norm is 9. The normal number of hurricanes for this time of year is 4.8, according to Colorado State University.
In the southwestern Caribbean, forecasters have increased the chances that a system could develop over the next five days to 30 percent.
The low pressure system has disorganized showers and thunderstorms that could become more organized as it drifts slowly across the northwestern Caribbean Sea.
UPDATE 5:40 p.m.: Palm Beach County beaches from R.G. Kreusler Park north to the Martin County line will remain closed after lifeguards and staff report continued irritation from red tide.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has released a map detailing the locations where testing occurred over the weekend for red tide.
The map also includes the concentrations of Karenia brevis in the samples.
A second map and forecast from NOAA shows moderate red tide conditions are expected in Palm Beach County through Friday.
Water samples were taken after beachgoers complained of scratchy throats, coughing and skin irritations this past weekend. The 11 samples, taken up to 7 miles offshore, tested positive for very low-to-medium concentrations of red tide and the single-cell algae Karenia brevis that causes it.
There have been 57 occurrences of red tide in the Gulf of Mexico since 1953. Eight of those events have made their way to Palm Beach County (with cell counts 100,000 cells/liter or more). All eight of those events originated in the Gulf of Mexico and were carried by currents to the east coast.
Gov. Rick Scott commented for the first time about the red tide on the Atlantic coast this morning, saying the state is ready to “deploy any needed resources.”
“With red tide now observed on Florida’s Atlantic Coast, we aren’t wasting any time combatting this natural phenomenon,” Scott said in a statement. “Over the past 61 years, scientists at FWC have documented red tide in Florida’s Atlantic waters nine times, and now, just as we’ve done on the Gulf Coast, we are absolutely committed to quickly deploying every available resource our Atlantic Coast communities may need to combat and mitigate red tide.”
Palm Beach County’s public beaches will open Wednesday, while individual cities can make their own decisions on whether to fully open, or keep swimming restricted.
“Reopening county beaches on Wednesday, Oct. 3rd, provides for a day’s preparation of proper messaging on the beaches,” a Monday press release from the county states. “All Palm Beach County beachgoers are advised to swim near guarded beaches and heed any warnings posted at county or city beaches.”
Boynton Beach and Boca Raton did not restrict access or swimming, while Delray Beach was closed to swimming Monday.
Hurricane Irma’s torrential rains flooded Lake Okeechobee with more than 450 metric tons of phosphorus in a single month, contributing to a fertilizer dump that nourished this summer’s harmful algae bloom and surpassed the state’s phosphorus goal 10 times over.
About 6 percent of the water and 7 percent of the phosphorus that went into the lake during the same time period came from areas south of Lake O, according to the South Florida Water Management District.
Scientists predicted an algae bloom was possible after Irma’s September soaking drove lake levels up 3 feet in a month, but the extent of the phosphorus loading wasn’t clear until results were released during a September meeting of the district’s Water Resources Analysis Coalition, or WRAC.
“Last year was a fluke because of the way the rain came with Irma, but it’s a high point in a chronic problem,” said Audubon Florida scientist Paul Gray, who specializes in Lake Okeechobee research. “Clearly we haven’t done near enough to fix it.”
The five-year average flow of phosphorus into the lake, including last year, was 598 metric tons. In each of the four years previous, the range of phosphorus was between 415 metric tons and 574 metric tons.
September’s full harvest moon rises tonight, but there’s something special about the lunar machinations this time of year.
Near the fall equinox, which was Saturday, the moon rises each day closer together, according to Earth and Sky. That means instead of a delay between 40 and 50 minutes each subsequent day, it’s more like 30 to 35 minutes.
The higher the latitude, the shorter the time lag. In Alaska, the lag time is just 10 minutes. In Denver it’s 30 minutes.
“No matter where you live worldwide, the moon will appear plenty full to you on both September 24 and 25, lighting up the night from dusk until dawn,” said Earth and Sky columnist Bruce McClure.
In West Palm Beach, moonrise tonight is 7:20 p.m.
Tuesday’s moonrise will be 7:55 p.m..
Wednesday will see the moon rise at 8:41 p.m.
The Harvest Moon is the only Full Moon name which is determined by the equinox rather than a month, according to TimeandDate.com.
Bottom line, look east tonight at 7:20 p.m. for September’s full harvest moon. Go to the beach, or the Intracoastal waterway for a special celestial treat when the moon emerges large and plump over the flat horizon.
But forecasters said the next named storm, which would be Kirk, could form over the weekend when an area of low pressure in the central subtropical Atlantic finds its way into more favorable conditions.
The spot of disturbed weather, which is midway between Bermuda and Azores, has a 70 percent chance of developing over the next five days.
Of the other three areas, two have meager shots of becoming something more in the short term, while the third — a tropical wave off the coast of Africa — has a 60 percent chance of development.
“The coming weeks into mid-October often bring several additional tropical storms and hurricanes,” AccuWeather senior meteorologist Alex Sosnowski wrote in his forecast. “This year may not be any exception.”
One of the areas being watched is about 100 miles southeast of Bermuda and has moisture associated with the now defunct Florence, which made landall last week in North Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane. It has a 30 percent chance of development over five days.
National Hurriane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen said the area doesn’t contain enough of Florence to keep that name if it becomes a tropical storm.
After Kirk, the next two names on the 2018 storm list are Leslie and Michael.
The tropical wave, which is about 600 miles south-southeast of the Cabo Verde Islands, was showing signs of organization Friday with environmental conditions forecast to be more accommodating for a tropical depression to form next week.
The peak of the hurricane season was Sept. 10. This season has so far had 10 named storms and five hurricanes. Three hurricanes — Florence, Helene and Isaac — and two tropical storms — Gordon and Joyce — formed between Sept. 1 and Sept. 12.
As of Friday, the season remained more active than normal. Many forecasts reduced their predictions because they believed a fall El Niño was likely. El Niño climate patterns create storm-killing wind shear and are associated with below normal hurricane seasons.
“The anticipated El Niño for this upcoming fall and winter has been lagging, and we are still technically in a neutral phase,” said AccuWeather hurricane expert Dan Kottlowski. “Even though we are over the hump in terms of the average peak of hurricane season, there is still more hurricane season to go.”
The tropics are nothing if not tenacious this September, with a tropical wave trying to become the next named storm under a plume of dry Saharan air.
National Hurricane Center forecasters are giving the area of disturbed weather only a 20 percent of tropical development over the next five days, with nearly no chance of development in the next 48 hours.
But by September, SAL outbreaks overspread the Caribbean only 10 to 15 percent of the time.
“It’s just that they’re a bit smaller than their June to August cousins and they especially don’t tend to reach as far west,” Dunion said.
Forecasters said Monday that tropical development was unlikely over the next 10 days.
While hurricane season lasts through Nov. 30, the tropical waves that produce Cape Verde storms tend to diminish by late September, said Bob Henson, a meteorologist for Weather Underground, part of IBM.
“We’ve come past the normal peak and it was an especially sharp peak this year because everything kind of aligned,” Henson said. “It was just a constellation of ingredients that came together and if the formula changes just a little bit, the numbers can drop pretty sharply.”
This year, three hurricanes — Florence, Helene and Isaac — and two tropical storms — Gordon and Joyce — formed between Sept. 1 and Sept. 12.
The U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill today that includes the authorization for a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to reduce harmful discharges to the northern estuaries.
The bill, called the Water Resources Development Act, still faces Senate approval. But advocates say they are hopeful a favorable Senate vote may happen this month because the language in Thursday’s bill was a compromise agreed to by House and Senate committee members. The bill is also known as America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018.
“This is good news for America’s Everglades,” said Celeste De Palma, director of Everglades policy at Audubon Florida. “Thousands of Audubon supporters urged Congress and the White House to advance the Everglades Agricultural Reservoir project in the last few months.”
The $1.4 billion project slated for state-owned land in western Palm Beach County is a partial answer to activists’ calls to “send the water south” and could alleviate the blue-green algae blooms that have plagued the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers.
If approved by the end of the year, the plan for the 10,500-acre above-ground reservoir and 6,500-acre stormwater treatment area will seek money from the 2020 federal budget. Depending on how the money is distributed for the project — the state and federal government are expected to split the cost — the reservoir could take about 10 years to build.
“Fixing our water issues is, without a doubt, the most important priority for our community, and this bill is significant progress in our fight,” said U.S. Rep. Brian Mast. R-Palm City. “People are getting sick, animals are dying and our environment is being demolished. We cannot wait any longer to get this bill signed into law.”\
The reservoir was pushed by Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, the retiring Florida Senate president , and signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott in May 2017. It followed the devastating algae outbreak of 2016 when thick foul-smelling mats of cyanobacteria covered the St. Lucie River during a period that included the Fourth of July holiday — a heavy tourist time for the Treasure Coast.
This summer, both the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie are suffering algae outbreaks after record May rainfall forced discharges from Lake Okeechobee.
“At a time when we’re seeing toxic algae plague our nation’s waterways, bipartisan support and momentum in Congress is needed now more than ever,” said Theresa Pierno, president and CEO for the National Parks Conservation Association after today’s vote.