How do you tell thousands of people, from all over the country, some who have been planning their vacation for months, that there might be a big problem at their destination?
That was the dilemma that GRDA and the media had to ask last week on the eve of the biggest weekend of the year for Grand Lake businesses. As we all sweated waiting for GRDA’s statement on the status of the blue-green algae and how it would affect the lake, we hoped they would say “just stay away from the algae and you’ll be fine.”
But, as it ended up, the most dreaded words a lake resort area can fathom was announced. Asking lake goers to avoid any activity that would allow bodily contact with the lake water spurred panic among vacationers as they quickly cancelled reservations for cabins, RV spots, and boat and other watercraft rentals.
The words, ‘very cautious’ and ‘strongly warn’ and ‘toxin’ that came from GRDA kept rumors and Facebook posts flying. Before long some rumors had the lake closed and surrounded by the National Guard. Bright yellow advisory signs were posted all over the lake including on the doors of convenience stores.
All the while, as Senator Inhofe was recovering from what was a respiratory illness
apparently due to swimming in the lake, other government officials, including Governor Mary Fallin, who just closed on a lake house last week, urged vacationers to continue to ‘come on down’. Unfortunately, the algae scare was enough to chase away a lot of people who would rather go somewhere else on a 100 degree day rather than Grand Lake.
I understand there were some real estate deals that also were cancelled. While some of the restaurants and bars and places with pools saw huge crowds, the overall impact of the event was devastating to many and it only remains to be seen what the rest of the summer will bring as the algae runs its course. According to Grove’s Dr. Doug Cox, no one has ever died from exposure to the algae and the itchy rash lasts about a week but there have been no reports of these symptoms reported at Grove hospital to date.
There are a lot of things to do here in this area and we can’t tell people whether to swim or not to swim. That is something individuals will have to decide for themselves; we only report what the GRDA puts out there for us and we are trying to continually update our website with information.
I saw several boats in the lake today pulling tubes. Many say they will just stay away from the algae, swim in the middle of the lake and not give it much thought. Others will probably never be convinced the threat is over. Education is the key, getting the correct information and dispelling rumor and sensationalism. Either way, we would like the algae to be gone to ease the minds of many.
Officials say the algae will need some rain from up north and some cool weather
to dissipate, seeing those two events in the middle of July might be asking for a
miracle. But, we know a lot of people around here who believe in miracles. We do, too.