Some of Florida's most popular beaches could be in for a one-two punch of trouble as thousands of spring breakers flock to the Sunshine State.
A toxic algae bloom known as red tide is already killing fish along the Gulf Coast, causing a stench. Now, a massive blob of seaweed twice as wide as the United States is drifting across the Atlantic and could wash ashore in the coming weeks, creating an even bigger mess.
“It could be two problems turning into a bigger one,” said Mike Parsons, a marine science professor at Florida Gulf Coast University.
The algae bloom has essentially choked some sea life, producing a foul smell as dead marine animals wash ashore.
It's not the only effect. The ocean breeze can carry a toxin released by the red tide algae ashore, which can cause health problems for people including coughing, irritated throat and itchy eyes, as well as difficulty breathing and asthma attacks.
The algae occurs naturally. But professor Parsons and a team from the water school at Florida Gulf Coast University are looking into whether pollution is making the blooms worse.
Bad red tides have occurred in the past, Parsons said, including in the 1940s, 50s and 60s.