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New tool predicts red tide irritation level at Pinellas beaches

By Jorja Roman, Pinellas County

PINELLAS COUNTY — A first of its kind tool is being used in Pinellas County to help beach goers decide which beaches are best to visit while the red tide bloom continues to impact the area.

The county is partnering with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing Systems, and The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission to provide the tool, called the Experimental Red Tide Respiratory Forecast.

The tool shows a prediction of risk level of irritation on certain beaches throughout Pinellas County. The predictions are provided in three hour increments for 24 hours.

“Everyone is unique, but this is a much better picture of what you might experience when you go out there,” said Kelli Levy, the Division Director of Pinellas County Environmental Management.

In map form, the tool has a key showing that red means you could expect strong irritation and blue means barely any will be present. People can click on each beach location on the map to see the predictions.

The agencies use water samples, satellite images, wind conditions, and other factors to provide the prediction.

It’s exciting news for many beach goers, including Stephanie Al-Asrnasi, a Sarasota resident who was visiting Clearwater this weekend.

“I think a lot of people have avoided coming all together because they didn’t think they could even stomach it,” said Al-Arnasi.

The predictions are just that but on Sunday, the prediction for Sand Key beach was accurate with no irritation.

“There’s nothing worse than driving hours or flying in from out of state to have a bad experience and hopefully this tool will allow them to still come here and have great experience,” said Levy.

Residents and tourists are encouraged to use the tool, and provide the agencies conducting the research with feedback if a beach they visit has an accurate or inaccurate prediction.