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.
The Karenia brevis algae, which causes red tide, is present in Palm Beach County’s coastal waters, according to preliminary results from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The tests of water samples taken after several people complained of respiratory issues on Saturday showed low to medium concentrations of red tide. The water samples were taken Sunday.
“We will enhance our monitoring and testing,” said Susan Neel, director of FWC’s community relations office. “Red tides on the east coast are rarer and typically of shorter duration than those on the Gulf coast.”
Beaches from Jupiter to Delray Beach have been closed to swimming since Saturday, with some cities closing the sand portion of the beach also.
“It’s unusual, but it’s not unheard of for it to end up on the east coast,” said Richard Stumpf, a NOAA oceanographer who studies harmful algae blooms and their movement. “The reason it’s rare is you have to have the bloom and an east wind. It’s a combination of things that have to happen.”
Red tides are naturally occurring and have been observed in the Gulf of Mexico since the 1800s.
The bloom can reach the east coast if it gets caught in the Gulf of Mexico’s loop current and travels with the Florida current through the Florida Straits into the Gulf Stream – a north-moving river of warm water that skims the Palm Beach County coastline. Once in the Gulf Stream, waves can force the toxin produced by the Karenia brevis into an aerosol form, that can then be carried by east winds to Palm Beach County beaches.
Since 1972 when the transport of red tide from the west coast to the east was first identified, seven other instances have been documented, according to FWC. Those include 1990, 1997, 1999 and 2006.
Stumpf said he’s monitoring satellite images of the state and doesn’t see any clear evidence of red tide on the east coast. High concentrations of red tide can appear brown in the water.
“There’s nothing I can pin down and say, ‘Oh, there it is,’” Stumpf said. “Our best guess is it’s piled along the edge of the Gulf Stream and it’s really hard to see that.”
Some people experience respiratory irritation (coughing, sneezing, tearing and an itchy throat) when the Florida red tide organism is present and winds blow onshore. The Florida Department of Health advises people with severe or chronic respiratory conditions, such as emphysema or asthma, to avoid red tide areas.
According to FWC’s website, a water sample from the Juno Beach Fishing Pier taken Wednesday by the Loggerhead Marine Life Center tested negative for the presence of Karenia brevis. That result was released in a Friday report.
The lack of the algae in the water column last week is consistent with red tide forecasts from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration which said no “respiratory irritation associated with Karenia brevis is expected” on the east coast of Florida.
Red tides on the East coast of Florida are extremely rare. They can even subside and then reoccur. The duration of a bloom in nearshore Florida waters depends on physical and biological conditions that influence its growth and persistence, including sunlight, nutrients and salinity, as well as the speed and direction of wind and water currents.
There have been 57 occurrences of red tide in the Gulf of Mexico since 1953. Eight of those events have made their way to the east coast in the area of 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.
Part of why South Florida was so hot last month was it remained for weeks in the grip of a high pressure system, which is still influencing the weather with strong easterly winds and mostly clear skies.
Today’s high in West Palm Beach is forecast to reach 90 degrees. If that holds true, it will be the eighth day in a row where the mercury reached 90 degrees or higher.
The normal high for this time of year is 87 degrees, with an overnight low of 74.
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.
Blame a stubborn Bermuda High, which has had a hold on the state through much of the month, for the unusual warmth. Fifteen days have seen the mercury rise to 90-degrees or warmer at Palm Beach International Airport, including hitting a whopping 93 degrees on Sept. 19 and 20.
The normal daytime high for late September is 87 or 88 with the normal overnight low typically dropping to 75.
Derrick Weitlich, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Melbourne, said the extra daytime heat has been aided by an easterly sea breeze pushing further inland and causing showers and thunderstorms to bypass the coast.
“The storms increase cloud cover and rainfall to really cool things off, but we’ve been drier than normal for most of the month and had higher temperatures,” Weitlich said.
An average of 4.6 inches of rain has fallen over coastal Palm Beach County this month, which is more than 2 inches below normal, according to South Florida Water Management District records.
Miami meteorologists warned Thursday of “feels like”, or heat index, temperatures in the triple digits into the weekend. West Palm Beach hit a high of 91 degrees Thursday with a heat index of 105. Although warm, it’s not enough to trigger a heat advisory which is issued when the index is forecast to reach 108 degrees for at least two hours.
“Heat indices are a concern the next few days as temperatures could feel 100 to 107 in some locations in Hendry, Glades, Collier, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties,” meteorologists at the Miami NWS wrote in their forecast.
Through Monday, daytime highs in West Palm Beach are expected to reach near 90 degrees with overnights dipping into the upper 70s.
This weekend, the Bermuda High will move further west with its center over the Peninsula. Its clockwise flow is forecast to whip winds up to 15 mph with higher gusts. By Monday, east winds could increase to 16 mph with higher gusts.
That means higher chances of rough seas and rip currents through the weekend.
On Tuesday, a stronger high pressure system moves across the northern part of the U.S., which could push a “backdoor” cold front “possibly through South Florida” Miami meteorologists said.
Although uncertainty in the forecast remains high, meteorologists said models have been hinting at the front with enough consistency they felt confident putting it in the forecast.
Weitlich said a backdoor front is one that comes from the northeast. He’s skeptical one would make it to South Florida this early in the season.
“In terms of temperatures, we certainly won’t see much of a change,” he said.
The cyclone once named Kirk is back to tropical storm strength, regaining its name at the 5 a.m. advisory as it heads toward the Windward Islands.
Kirk had been reduced to remnants of its former self on Monday, but National Hurricane Center forecasters said this morning the system has better organized thunderstorms around a defined center. Add maximum sustained winds of 45 mph and Kirk is reborn.
The system is expected to produce scattered rain and rough surf along the Carolinas as it moves northeastward to merge with a front that will push through over the weekend.
Through this morning, this hurricane season is still above normal for this time of year for named storms with 12, compared the climatological norm of 8.7, according to Colorado State University’s Tropical Meteorology Project. Named storm days (57), number of hurricanes (5) and Accumulated Cyclone Energy (83) are also higher than normal.
CSU’s next two-week forecast is scheduled for release Thursday.
8 p.m. UPDATE: The remnants of Tropical Storm Kirk are likely to redevelop into a tropical cyclone during the next day or two before it moves into an area of highly unfavorable upper-level winds as it approaches the Caribbean, according to the latest Tropical Weather Outlook from the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
At 8 p.m., the remnants were about 750 miles east of the Windward Islands and moving quickly westward at 20-25 mph. Chance of tropical formation in the next 48 hours was 70 percent.
Meanwhile, off the coast of North Carolina, a low pressure area still has a 50 percent chance of becoming a tropical system. An Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft reported that the circulation has become better defined but the associated showers and thunderstorms remain disorganized.
The South Florida Water Management District Governing Board will give final consideration to its 2018-2019 budget tonight, which includes no property tax increases for the eighth consecutive year.
The tentative budget of $813.9 million reduces the tax rate for 15 of its 16 counties by about 5.3 percent to $29 per $100,000 of taxable property value. That reduction, called the “rollback rate”, ensures that even though property values have increased, residents will pay the same, or slightly less, than the previous year.
“By eliminating nonessential costs and limiting administrative overhead, this governing board proudly continues its tradition of not raising taxes while achieving flood protection, water supply and environmental restoration,” said Governing Board Chairman Federico Fernandez in a July press release after the board tentatively approved the tax rate in an 8 to 1 vote.
The lone dissenter in the July vote, and subsequent budget discussions, was Jim Moran, who represents Palm Beach County on the board.
Moran, who was appointed to the board by Gov. Rick Scott in 2011, is a self-described “conservative tea party guy,” and advocate of smaller government.
But he said he can’t support an 8th year of reduced tax rates.
“We need more money, we’re broke” Moran said in July. “When I first came on the board we had $400 to $500 million in what I call unrestricted reserves, but we’ve spent that down for restoration projects and other projects to what is now below $60 million and we are still only collecting the same amount we were eight to nine years ago.”
Moran said keeping the tax rate the same this year would raise an additional $18 to $20 million that could be used for repairs and maintenance to the district’s flood control system, employee raises and bonuses, invasive plant control and upgrades to the district’s fleet of vehicles, including construction equipment.
“It’s one thing to cut back to the bone and still be able to run efficiently, but it’s another thing to have the budget so lean you are not adequately doing flood control or rewarding employees who deserve better bonuses and raises,” Moran said Monday.
The proposed budget does include an additional $3 million for employee compensation, which is a $1.7 million increase, and $3 million for operations and maintenance, which is used to for repairs to levees, canals and water control structures.
District staff said in July that even if money was no object for operations and maintenance, they couldn’t physically complete more projects or do more repairs and that the $3 million allocation was decided on after discussions with Chief Engineer John Mitnik.
Moran has been the lone voice on the board with concerns regarding the upkeep of district flood control systems, repeatedly pointing to a year-long review by the inspector general that found the annual allotment set aside for repairs should be about $88.5 million, while the actual budget averages only $53 million.
District officials agree the repair budget needs to be bolstered, but not by as much as what is indicated in the report, which they say is based on a facilities survey conducted three years ago that is outdated.
The district is in charge of about 760 culverts, weirs, spillways, locks and pump stations. It also maintains 2,100 miles of canals and 2,000 miles of levees in the 16-county region it oversees from Orlando to the Florida Keys.
Moran resigned as chairman of the district’s Water Resources Analysis Coalition in May after he had asked that the report be added to the coalition’s agenda, but was denied.
“Where I’m not seeing the great concern arise is with our staff,” Fernandez said in July about Moran’s concerns. “The messaging we’ve been receiving is one of staying the course because we’ve been very effective in sticking to our knitting and in not asking for more than what we need.”
The district has been in cost-cutting mode since 2011, which included losing hundreds of employees to layoff and buyouts. In 2009, the district had 1,828 full time employees. The 2018-2019 budget includes 1,475 employees – a nearly 20 percent reduction in the past decade.
Moran wasn’t the only person encouraging the board to keep the millage rate the same.
He was joined by NylaPipes, a member of the district’s Water Resources Analysis Coalition and executive director of One Florida Foundation, and Cara Capp, Everglades restoration program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association. Both spoke at the July meeting.
Pipes mentioned this summer’s algae plague on Lake Okeechobee and in both northern estuaries.
“If you are looking at a rollback rate when all of us are advocating for projects we know we need, we are sending a very mixed message and I am confident Floridians want to get there on all of these projects and they want to get there faster,” Pipes said. “Literally, at this moment, we have declarations of emergency in this state, and it’s time to recognize the economy is getting better and Floridians will stand behind you if you continue doing the good work you’re doing.”
UPDATE 12:17 p.m.: Kirk lost its center circulation this morning, meaning it no longer fits the definition of a tropical cyclone.
The National Hurricane Center is no longer issuing advisories on the system, but its remnants will be monitored as it moves toward the Lesser Antilles.
UPDATE 8 a.m.: The Carolinas could be in store for another round of unwanted rain as a low pressure system between Bermuda and the Bahamas finds a more conducive environment for strengthening as it moves west-northwest.
The area, which was given a 40 percent chance of development over the next five days, is in an area with slightly warmer than normal sea surface temperatures, but is expected to reach even warmer waters this week.
If the area of low pressure near the Carolinas were to become a named storm it would be Michael.
Kirk, which became the season’s 11th named storm on Saturday, has weakened to a depression but could see some restrengthening before hitting the “ever-present wall of wind shear near” near the Lesser Antilles, Masters said.
That wind shear is expected to tear Kirk apart later this week.
According to the National Hurricane Center, four named storms develop in the Atlantic after mid-September in an average season, three of which become hurricanes and one of which becomes a Category 3 or stronger hurricane.
While the 2018 season remains above normal for this time of year with 12 named storms, including 5 hurricanes, it has one fewer major hurricane than normal.
Florence has been the only storm to become a major hurricane of Cat 3 or stronger.
The number of named storms is challenging forecasters’ predictions for an average storm season.
The Climate Prediction Center’s August forecast predicted 9 to 13 named storms, 4 to 7 hurricanes and 0 to 2 major hurricanes.
“This year, despite the recent uptick in activity, the overall activity remains typical of a less active season,” said Gerry Bell, lead hurricane forecaster for the Climate Prediction Center. “For example, only two of seven storms since August 1have become hurricanes. This propensity for weaker, shorter-lived storms is typical of a less active season.”
Tropical Storm Kirk has weakened to a tropical depression as it moves quickly west across the Atlantic.
The National Hurricane Center said it had 35-mph maximum sustained winds, which were expected to strengthen but then lessen and dissipate the next few days.
Meanwhile subtropical storm Leslie is lingering in the Central Atlantic with maximum sustained winds at 40 miles per hour. It’s not expected to move much today, nor gain strength until it merges with a frontal system in the next two or three days.
Lastly, there is an area of low pressure between Bermuda and the Bahamas that has a 30 percent of forming into a depression within 48 hours.
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.