Red tide releases grip on Pinellas County

Pinellas County is standing down on red tide. After a summer of heartache as the tide spread north, officials say conditions have improved dramatically. Only isolated spots remain of the dangerous toxin.

"It hurt us this year for sure," said Bill DeSilva, the manager of Caddy's Indian Shores.

DeSilva says numerous potential visitors to Pinellas County would call ahead and ask if it was safe. He was honest, telling them of red tide's potential side effects.

"We would get calls from New York, Canada, on and on," he said, "talking about the horror stories down here, and people basically canceled."

Business in August for him and his 90 employees was down by half, despite videos he put out on social media, begging visitors to still come.

Indeed, numbers show September was the first month since January Pinellas County took in fewer bed taxes from the year before.

But he wonders if they weren't just heading for elsewhere in Florida. State numbers show 30.7 million visited in the third quarter, 10 percent more than the year before.

"There are other options," he said. "You have an east coast of Florida. There are other places, the Panhandle on up."

LINK: More FOX 13 red tide coverage

But the threat isn't over for points well south of Tampa Bay. In Lee County, red tide was the suspected killer of seven dolphins found Tuesday.

"If a mammal that large can be killed, there's something going on in the water," said one witness.

But for now, the FWC map shows an almost all-clear for Pinellas County; welcome news for businesses and employees that depend on water being as crystal clear as the view.

"We all made it through it," said DeSilva. "Here we are standing out here on a beautiful crisp December night and the water is clear."

Pinellas County says it is going to cease beach-cleaning operations because currents are expected to keep moving south the rest of this week.