Red tide outbreak reaches Panhandle

Published: Saturday, October 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, September 30, 2005 at 11:18 p.m.
PANAMA CITY BEACH - A red tide outbreak detected nearly two months ago along Florida's west coast has reached Panhandle beaches, killing fish and sea turtles and causing respiratory problems for humans.
Andrew David, a research and fishery biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service said the Panhandle outbreak is considered mild - but still the region's worst in seven years.
"I wouldn't call this as severe as the 1998 outbreak, but it certainly can be locally severe," he said. "If you're a fish and you get killed by it, it's severe to you."
The toxic algae outbreak is spotty, affecting some beaches but not others. It has been found as far west as Miramar Beach in neighboring Walton County, where it has turned the normally blue-green Gulf of Mexico a reddish brown.
"I thought the water was weird," said Rita Wilson, a Hurricane Katrina evacuee from New Orleans, as she coughed and wheezed Thursday. "It looks like river water."
Rohn Wenner of Beaumont, Texas, brought his family to Miramar Beach, just east of Destin, but they left after less than 30 minutes because their noses started burning and they couldn't stop coughing.
The smell also was rancid, Wenner said. "It's miserable," he said. "It's not the prettiest sight. We tried to be brave. We didn't know it was going to be this bad."

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