Manatees Stranded During the Reverse Storm Surge of Hurricane Irma

When most people think of hurricanes, an overabundance of wind and water probably come first to mind.  This is why it was so strange when the water disappeared around the bay in Sarasota Florida.

Ryan Rogers, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service explained the phenomena as a type of reverse storm surge. A storm surge is when strong winds push water onto the land.  Although this unusual effect is quite the opposite.  What happened right before Hurricane Irma hit the land is that the wind pushed water away from the shore.  “All of that force from the wind is pushing the water out of the bay and into the Gulf,” said Rogers, who is based in Mobile, Ala. “It has everything to do with the actual placement of the storm.”

One can imagine the havoc that an empty bay could play on the sea-dwelling animals that live there.  Michael Sechler and some friends witnessed first hand the devastation.  “We parked our cars and saw that all the water had receded, pretty much as far as you could see,” Sechler, a 26-year-old Florida native explained.  “And out on the water, we saw two objects. From a distance, we couldn’t really tell what they were, but we wondered, ‘Are those manatees?’”

Manatees indeed are exactly what they were.  Sechler and his friends went out to help the stranded creatures.  “It was mostly just marshy seaweed. When you took a step, your foot went down a couple inches. But we managed to make our way out there, and sure enough, there were two manatees,” Sechler said.

The Manatees Were Alive

When they reached the manatees, Sechler thought they may have been dead.  But then he could see the manatees breathing and also looking up at him.  “From its eyes, you could see trails of water,” Sechler explained. “I’m not going to assume manatees cry, but that’s what it looked like.”

Sechler and his friends attempted to move the manatees into deeper water, but the gentle beasts were too heavy.  He then posted photos on social media.  After the photos were shared it did not take long for two officers from the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office to arrive on the scene.  With the officer’s help, they were able to put the manatees on tarps and pull them back to deeper water.

This story had a happy ending thanks to Sechler and his friends taking the time to help the poor creatures.  It is important for everyone to be on the lookout for more animals in danger after Hurricane Irma.  If you notice an animal needing help please contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

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