Felicia Fumero spent about half an hour on the sands of Fort Myers Beach before giving up on Monday morning.
The 42-year-old Lehigh Acres woman drove more than an hour to enjoy the water, but the lingering drizzle forced her to put her things away. She and a neighbor went to enjoy one of the beach restaurants instead.
“It was gray, but I thought it would clear up,” Fumero said. ” I will have to leave. There is no other way.”
As Fumero departed, many beachgoers braved the winds and steady rain as Tropical Storm Gordon lurked near the Keys. They enjoyed the tranquility offered by the beach on a Labor Day holiday weekend meant to draw crowds that never came. Some have also been spooked by the red tide and photos of dead fish carcasses that have littered the sand for the past two months. A red tide report on Friday found that red tide levels are still high along much of thecoast, but have dispersed more than in recent weeks.
But on Monday the water was clear, although Gordon was hiding, and at least two families enjoyed the surf. They didn’t seem to mind the gray sky overhead as a couple passed by – a woman with an umbrella over her head.
Fernando Fiore has vacationed in Fort Myers Beach for about two decades and this is the first time he has experienced Southwest Florida’s red tide problems.
Her three-day vacation was preceded by national media coverage of the red tide, but instead of despairing, Fiore said she found a clean and inviting beach.
“It was safe to get in the water,” said Fiore, a television personality who anchored Univision’s FIFA World Cup coverage for nearly two decades. “Yesterday, the weather was fine.
Fiore and his girlfriend, Mariela Ferrecio, were leaving on Monday afternoon, but enjoying one last stroll on the beach before hitting the road.
He said he wishes the companies luck and hopes they can bounce back despite the terrible headlines.
Jeff Truster, 48, and Brenda Davis, 50, sat on benches at the Fort Myers Beach pavilion and watched the rain.
“I was lucky with the red tide, but it’s stormy now,” Truster said.
The couple traded Indiana’s hot and humid climate for being near water. They booked their reservation before experiencing the red tide but were pleasantly surprised to find a clean beach when they arrived last week.
“The water was great,” Davis said. “It was beautiful. You can see through the water right now.
This is what Paul Grattarola would like the public to know.
“The water isn’t blue, but it’s clear,” said Grattarola, operations manager of Yucatan Beach Stand Bar & Grill. “There is no death. It doesn’t stink.
The Labor Day holiday usually arrives towards the end of the summer season, and it’s not a make-or-break weekend for many businesses. This slows down considerably after the children return to school.
“We didn’t know what to expect,” Grattarola said. “We were busy on Saturday. A lot of people in downtown Miami… Today the weather is going to hurt.
Labor Day was the last chance to see larger crowds despite red tides because many holidays are booked well in advance, Grattarola said.
For Chrisp Pugh, the weekend was much better than expected. He was watching about five people browse the family beach shop known as Winds, located where old San Carlos meets Estero Boulevard.
“It’s increased a bit,” said Pugh, a supervisor.
Rain is no deterrent, Pugh said. It’s normal in Florida, but the red tide hit the business hard.
Monica Couly, co-owner of family business Tropical Sunset Place, agrees.
“It’s down,” Couly said.
Couly said she thought the over-the-top coverage drove the crowds away. People haven’t been wearing face masks for weeks, she said.
“We hope the news will spread,” Couly said. “The red tide is going away.
“We continue to bet on Fort Myers Beach. It’s a big city.