Red tide air quality maps being tested in Pinellas County

Since red tide (karenia brevis algae) cleared from the shoreline, people are once again enjoying the surf and sand in Southwest Florida.

But that’s not the case in Pinellas County where it’s getting worse, making planning a beach day difficult for people like Randy Pesce.

“It’s horrible. I mean, it smells, it looks disgusting and a problem,” Pesce said, “We were here last week right after the hurricane. The tide pushed a lot of fish ashore. It was horrible.”

Now, a new high-tech tool is aimed at preventing a bad day at the beach by helping you stay one step ahead of red tide.

Barbara Kirkpatrick is executive director for Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System. She’s working with people from NASA, NOAA, and a handful of other groups to forecast when red tide will make it hard for you to breathe.

Kirkpatrick said she has a passion about keeping people healthy, “I think we can lessen the impacts from red tide, keep people healthier.”

They’re doing this so the next time red tide shows up in your local waters and the aerosols get into the air, you’ll be able to see on your phone if it’s okay to breathe at the beach.

Richard Stumpf, an oceanographer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said he’s helping develop the website which will predict air quality with red tide 24-hours out.

“People should know when it’s okay and when it’s not. We don’t want people to get sick,” Stumpf said, highlighting that it hasn’t been done before, “It’s the first time to try and do this as this resolution.”

The forecast updates every three hours and pinpoints where breathing issues are. With changes in the wind affecting where the bad air goes, Pesce says he looks forward to the new forecasts, “If I can access it online before coming to the beach, it would save me a trip.” And potentially a trip to the doctor.

The forecasting tool is currently only being tested in Pinellas County.

They’re hoping to roll it out to Southwest Florida once they can figure out how to make the predictions as accurate as possible.

LINK: You can check out the map for Pinellas County yourself HERE.

Reporter:Channing Frampton
Writer:Derrick Shaw
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