SANTA ROSA BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — It’s been three years since Panhandle beaches dealt with red tide, but it’s back again.
The harmful algae bloom, named Karenia brevis, releases a toxin that can irritate respiratory systems.
The common side effects include itchy skin, a scratchy throat, coughing and a burning sensation to your eyes nose, and throat.
During major blooms, the water will turn a brownish-red color and will kill marine life.
Beachgoers reported red tide to the South Walton Fire District, prompting officials to post warnings on Facebook and raise the purple flags.
“We also, of course, follow along with the finding of the National Weather Service and the testing the Florida Fish and Wildlife does in the water,” SWFD Public Information Officer Mackenzie McClintock said. “When those scientific bodies report red tide, we will follow that. Once our lifeguards experience in-person, then it is our signal to fly the purple flag and let everybody know that it has become an issue.”
Some said they felt the effects stronger over the weekend.
“I have never experienced anything like the red tide on Saturday,” beachgoer Janice Kroutter said. “Eyes burning, sneezing, coughing felt like you’d been caught in red pepper or something… but I’m down here four or five times a year and I’ve never seen that before.”
McClintock said the red tide can vary day by day, and even hour by hour.
“Depending on where the tide is blooming strongly throughout the day, you may feel it more on the East end in the morning and more on the West end on the evening, but it’s widespread at that point, which is why you are seeing a purple flag on all 26 miles of our beach,” McClintock said.
The South Walton Fire District posts daily flag updates on their Facebook page and said if you start to feel significantly ill as a result of the red tide, it is always safer to seek help.