SARASOTA, Fla. -- During the past few weeks, we’ve seen red tide conditions improve at our beaches. Now that Hurricane Michael passed through, will it make red tide conditions better or worse?

Hurricane Michael’s brush with the Tampa Bay area might not have been close enough to break up the bloom, says Mote staff scientist Dr.Tracy Fanara.

“This vial has millions of cells per liter of Kerenia brevis,” says Fanara as she holds up a vial with what appears to be clear water. Kerenia brevis is the organism responsible for red tide.

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Fanara says when volunteers gather these samples, they’re told to be handled gently.

“We tell them not to shake the bottle. ...They’re unarmored, meaning they’re vulnerable to turbulence,” says Fanara.

While Hurricane Michael is agitating the water hard enough to possibly break up the red tide bloom in the panhandle, we may not be as lucky.

“For us, the hurricane’s path so far out not sure how much impact we will see from this,” Fanara says.

Instead, these feeder bands may be pushing the bloom back closer to shore.

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“If there is any turbulence we’ll experience respiratory irritation, not only from the onshore winds but from cells due to the wave action,” explains Fanara.

The storm hasn’t been much of a rainmaker for the Bay area either, but any rain could pose a problem.

“Rainfall creates surface water runoff that can bring nutrients to those coastal waters," Fanara said. "A bloom close enough to shore can be sustained by surface water nutrients.”

Fanara says she expects we’ll know more about Hurricane Michael’s impact on our red tide bloom on Monday after water samples are taken and FWC releases its report. There’s a slight chance we may know something as early Friday when the FWC end-of-week report comes out.

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