For a lot of the summer time, Lake Okeechobee suffocates below poisonous, blue-green algae blooms fed by fertilizer runoff from farms. The blooms lately subsided, however Hurricane Idalia may trigger additional cycles of development and decay.
That’s as a result of storms can ship extra fertilizer runoff down the Kissimmee River and different waterways, fire up air pollution from the lake backside and kill aquatic vegetation — all of which encourage the expansion of algae.
The blue-green blooms, additionally referred to as cyanobacteria, can kill wildlife. For people, long-term publicity — by way of pores and skin contact, consuming water, consuming contaminated meals, or respiration airborne particles — could cause liver injury and neurological illness.
As of Tuesday morning, the water stage in Lake Okeechobee was simply over 15 ft above sea stage, a few foot beneath the place it may endanger the encircling dike. If rain from Idalia threatens to boost the extent to 16.5 ft, the US Military Corps of Engineers will very doubtless launch water by way of canals towards Fort Myers and Stuart.
The Military Corps of Engineers didn’t instantly reply to requests for remark, however officers mentioned throughout a briefing on Friday that they might in all probability anticipate Idalia to go earlier than deciding whether or not to launch water.
If a whole lot of rain falls, lake water and algae may additionally stream south to the Everglades, an essential reservoir of biodiversity, although releases to the east and west are extra doubtless.
“We’ve actually been on edge,” mentioned Eve Samples, govt director of Pals of the Everglades, primarily based in Stuart. “We’ve been bracing ourselves for a storm to emerge and make issues dire.”