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Date of Issue: November 08, 2007

Sandscript

Hurricane, critter stories for 2007

The overriding question of the 2007 Atlantic Ocean hurricane season has been:

What happened?

Hurricane predictions for the season were dire. “Above average” and “active” were the key phrases for the forecasts. Yes, we did have named storms from Andrea to Noel - 14 to date, with Noel churning into the depths of the Atlantic Ocean as we speak. The expected landfalls and catastrophic problems never came to pass.

There isn’t a quick and easy answer. Hurricane forecasters admit that upper-level wind shear did some serious damage to the storms, accounting for less aggressive action.

Hurricanes are generally wide and tall. Consider them as huge thunderstorms, rotating counter-clockwise, sometimes stretching across hundreds of miles and going up and up into the sky.

The width of the storm sucks in water vapor. The height allows the storm to recycle the water back into the energy of the beast.

Upper-level wind shear this year cut the head off the beast. Why? Nobody’s sure.

Is it time to start snacking on your canned Spam and Vienna sausages?

Give it a few weeks. Remember, official closure of the season isn’t until Nov. 30, and storms have formed as late as December and January.

Hold off on those post-hurricane parties just a little bit longer.

New dry toys

As we consider the deluge that Noel caused in Haiti, we also have our own problem of a drought in the southeastern United States. Yes, it’s dry, dry, dry down here, and there’s a new way to figure out just how dry we are.

The federal government has created a Web site called U.S. Drought Portal at www.drought.gov. “The site was developed for the National Integrated Drought Information System,” according to a press release, and it “provides all the information that water managers need in one location, and delivers unprecedented access to key operational drought resources to answer the most pressing questions facing policymakers, emergency planners, businesses and the public.”

Bradenton Beach, beware!

You’ve probably been aware of the managed anchoring and mooring field proposed just south of the historic fishing pier in Bradenton Beach as avid readers of The Islander and this column. The subject of establishing such an anchorage has been in the making and in the news for years, as have the boats hanging off hooks in Anna Maria Sound.

It’s one of those love-it-or-not issues.

Some people love the look of the sailboats in the bay.

Some people despise the boaters because their vessels block or “ruin” the view from their gazillion-dollar homes.

It’s always a quandary for city officials, an issue that will rear its ugly head in the months ahead as Bradenton Beach attempts to finalize its own managed anchorage and mooring field.

Now there is another wrinkle to add to the issue.

A recent Collier County, Fla., court decision that found a restrictive Marco Island recreational boat anchoring ordinance in violation of state law could help lead to a statewide solution to Florida’s patchwork of local anchoring laws,” according to Boat/U.S.

“The Marco Island ordinance restricted recreational boaters to a maximum 12-hour anchoring period when located within 300 feet of a seawall, and a maximum six-day anchoring period anywhere beyond that distance. Collier County Judge Rob Crown’s Oct. 26 decision said that the Marco Island ordinance was ‘an unlawful regulation of publicly owned sovereign waterways in violation of Florida law.’”

There seems to be a pause for reflection on mooring laws while everyone ponders the court decision.

Critter tales

As hurricane season wanes, so too does turtle season. The last nests of 2007 have sent their hatchlings scampering into the surf.

Those little eggs apparently are a valuable quantity, at least in Mexico. Last month, six people were arrested for attempting to sell an estimated 52,000 eggs for undisclosed amounts of money.

I remember stopping at spots in the Florida Keys to get a little taste of turtle soup as a Little Roat. I don’t remember getting turtle eggs, and I don’t remember eating the soup.

Somehow, those memories are good.

AACK!

So here’s the good news: Researchers have discovered a clam that they believe made it to age 405, the oldest living creature found.

Bad news: they killed it while checking it out.

The clam find was off Iceland. More and older clams are suspected, some up to 600 years old, unless, as news reports put it, “some researcher finds them first.”

Seaweed

There have been lots of news reports of that smelly red seaweed coming ashore to our south. None, thankfully, has yet come to Anna Maria Island beaches.

It would appear to be drift algae that’s hitting Sarasota beaches, including Casey Key, an offshore seaweed that holds a home for baby sea turtles. Call the seaweed a “floating reef” for the young ones, and it can drift via waves and wind to the beach, where it turns into a mess for beachgoers as it stacks up along the shore.

We’ve had our share of the muck in the past. Now, it would appear, it’s our neighbors to the south that have to deal with the muck.

Sandscript factoid

Since we’re into a bunch of bad news, heres a bright spot from the Florida Marine Research Institute in St. Petersburg:

“Very low to low concentrations of Karenia brevis, the Florida red tide organism, were detected this week in water samples collected along the Sanibel Island coast (Lee County). All other samples collected between Pinellas and Collier counties contained no K. brevis. Offshore samples collected last week west of southern Lee and Collier counties detected an offshore bloom of K. brevis, however no reports of coastal impacts have been received.”

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