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Friday, June 7, 2013

Tropical Storm Andrea (2013) Has Past, Should I Go Swimming?

There are not many things more uplifting than the beautiful sunshine that  brightens the day after a dark, gloomy storm has passed. Tropical Storm Andrea passed through the Tampa Bay area on June 6, 2013 and left some flooding rains, roof damage and high winds.

Bayshore Boulevard near downtown Tampa was closed much of the afternoon due to flooding and high waves splashing against the guard rails. The Sunshine Skyway Bridge that connects the cities of St. Petersburg and Bradenton along the western coast of Florida closed due to 40 mph winds the entire afternoon as the storm passed.

Waterspouts in the Gulf of Mexico became tornadoes when they hit land and caused some downed trees, broken signs and roof damage in St. Petersburg, Clearwater and Gulfport. Water was also up to the road and splashing onto it on the Courtney Campbell Causeway.

The Tampa Airport received 3.31 inches of rain which broke an earlier record in 1934 of 2.69. Thankfully, no loss of life has been reported as a result of this storm system and Tropical Storm Andrea is now on its way up the eastern coast of the US headed towards New England.

So, this morning, all of us here in Tampa Bay woke up to bright sunshine and temperatures in the 80's. A typical day for this part of Florida. This might inspire one to pack a picnic and head for the beach. But is that a good idea?

According to Chad Nelson, an environmental director at the Surfrider Foundation, "The Surfrider Foundation has always advised the public never to swim or surf after a rain. The coastal waters are polluted with urban runoff and sewage from leaking water logged sewer pipes.

Waters that are polluted may contain several different disease-causing organisms, commonly called pathogens. Enteric pathogens -- those that live in the human intestine - can carry or cause a number of infectious diseases. Swimmers in sewage-polluted water could contract any illness that is spread by ingestion of fecal-contaminated water.

Viruses are believed to be the major cause of swimming-associated diseases, and are responsible for gastroenteritis, hepatitis, respiratory illness, and ear, nose, and throat problems. Other microbial diseases that can be contracted by swimmers include salmonellosis, shigellosis, and infection caused by E. coli. Other microbial pathogens found at varying concentrations in recreational waters include amoeba and protozoa, which can cause giardiasis, amoebic dysentery, skin rashes and pink eye.

There is also what we call the "toxic cocktail" of pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals and other pollutants that are not monitored regularly and the health effects are poorly understood." (quote courtesy of

Another danger that has been noted resulting from a passing storm is that the water churns up and brings to the beach a larger amount of jellyfish which can lead to stings. In addition, riptides that still exist to a certain degree after a storm has passed raise the concerns about the likelihood of drowning incidents.

However, if you simply wish to walk the beach, this might be a good time, because the raging sea also churns up and spits onto the shore many sunken treasures. Even if you are just looking for rare shells, a stirred up ocean can present a wide array of fresh choices.

So, enjoy the sunshine today, enjoy the beach shore, but you might want to stay out of the water. 

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