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Date of Issue: September 21, 2006

Sandscript

Red tide comments, hurricane stuff for now, 2007

There's a whole lot of dead stuff washing ashore on our beaches of late.

Chris Hobbs sent us a picture of what he thought was a 150-pound grouper last week, a shot taken from the north end of Anna Maria Island. Sea Grant Extension Agent John Stevely said he thought it was a Goliath grouper, with a "good chance" that it was succumbed to red tide. There are reports of the algae bloom offshore still, although the red tide outbreak does move around and change day-to-day, he added.

There were also reports of dead bonnethead sharks that washed ashore in Pinellas County. Barring a necropsy, the cause of death for the sharks is unknown, but without any red tide reported north of Tampa Bay, that cause is apparently ruled out.

It's important to remember what Stevely mentioned about red tide and its transitory nature. Basically, red tide can be bad at one stretch of shore, and non-existent just a short distance up or down the beach.

Red tide is not one big blanket that covers all of Southwest Florida - it's more like a handful of hand towels that can be scattered all over the place. If there is a rhyme or reason to its outbreaks, only Mother Nature is privy to the knowledge and she doesn't seem to be telling any of the rest of us.

County crews are doing a good job of collecting dead fish, too, and there's no reason for you not be able to enjoy your day at the beach.

And no, the chamber of commerce didn't pay me for any of the above.

 

Bright kid, bright new Web site

I gladly confess to being a weather junkie. Over the years, as more and more weather data is posted on the Internet, it's become an addictive practice to pour through the minutia of the reports, check out the various computer models and read the complicated discussions on what a storm has done and what it is expected to do in the days ahead.

But if I'm a junkie, then Zach Gruskin is a fanatic - and at age 15, too.

As reported in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Zach is an intern with the National Hurricane Center in Miami-Dade County. He's gained some repute as a budding hurricane expert among the meteorologists there, and has even led a few of the discussion groups.

As his loving mom put it, Zach is "freaky smart" when it comes to storms, particularly hurricanes.

He's also thrown together one of the more comprehensive Web sites I've seen at www.hurricanewarning1.com.

It's got the usual NHC advisories and forecasts, but also has a host of radar imagery and the dozen or so computer models that are run for storms. It's a real-time site, comprehensive, informative and a new must-view for hurricane junkies.

Good going, Zach.

 

No hurricanes for 2007?

"The Old Farmer's Armanac 2007" is out, and there is good news and bad within the pages of the book, published since 1792.

Good news is that there's not mention in the weather section of hurricanes for 2007, and winter should be milder than usual. Bad news is that it is projected to be a drier spring and summer than usual for Floridians next year.

Here's some of the weather summary for our area of the world for 2007.

"Winter will be warmer and drier than normal. The coldest temperature will occur in mid- to late December, early January and late February, but a damaging freeze is unlikely.

"April and May will be much drier than normal, with much-below-normal rainfall, stressing crops and lawns and increasing the threat of fires.

"Summer rainfall will be above normal, lower the fire threat but not making up for the accumulated rainfall deficit. The hottest periods will occur in mid-June, most of July and earl and late August.

"September and October will be cooler and drier than normal."

And no mention of hurricanes - for us, at least.

 

Road trip

My buddy Bob Ardren is just back from a 6,400 mile trip that took him visiting relatives in the Midwest and eventually Canada. He said it was interesting and he's glad it's over.

One of the highlights was a dip in Lake Superior. The natives went on and on about the warmth of the water - 66 degrees, at least 10 ticks hotter than last year and near balmy for them. As a Florida native, I thought that water froze at 66 degrees, but I guess not.

Also on the road trip front are the results of a survey of truckers conducted by Atlas Van Lines. Long-distance haulers have voted that Interstate 70 in Colorado/Utah is the most scenic highway stretch in the country. Interstate 10 in Texas was voted most boring stretch of highway; and Ohio's Interstate 80 was voted the safest stretch of road.

Florida took top honors in having the best rest stops. Some distinction, huh?

Of course, there aren't all that many long-distance drivers that visit the scenic highways of Gulf Drive in Bradenton Beach or the Palma Sola Causeway, or even the Tamiami Trail in Manatee and Sarasota counties.

I guess we should take credit where we can, but to take it because of Florida's roadside cans is a bit of a reach.

 

Sandscript factoid

Who says that big corporate executives aren't willing to help the little guys in their time of need?

It seems that something called the British Hedgehog Preservation Society has been lobbying the McDonald's Corp. for years to redesign its McFlurry dessert cups. The shape of the vessels is just big enough for hedgehogs to crawl in to slurp out the last bit of the sludgy leftover ice cream, but not big enough for the spiky critters to edge out and, without human intervention, the little guys could starve to death.

Hedgehog deaths were rampant in England, preservation society officials proclaimed, and McDonalds should do something about it.

And, believe it or not, the company did.

After "significant research and testing," the company redesigned the cups to make them hedgehog-friendly. I can just imagine the zillions of dollars in research that were used, and the marketing program created, to come up with kinder, gentler cups for ice cream for both humans and the tiny woodland creatures.

Jeez.

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