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Thousands of turtles have been rescued from freezing waters in Texas

Volunteers work to rescue cold-stunned sea turtles amid winter storms in Texas. CNN affiliate KRGV reports.

Posted: Feb 18, 2021 7:31 PM
Updated: Feb 18, 2021 7:31 PM

As Texas' deep freeze wreaks havoc on land, sea animals also suffer in its icy waters.

This week, more than 2,600 turtles have been rescued around South Padre Island at the southern tip of the state.

Volunteers and wildlife officials scouring bays and beaches for stranded turtles suffering from "cold-stun," a condition which inhibits turtles' mobility and often results in stranding.

Sea Turtle Inc., a nonprofit in South Padre Island, rescued more than 2,500 at-risk turtles from nearby waters. It's collecting hundreds by the day.

The facility, which already housed turtles in its hospital, rehabilitation and education centers, has been overwhelmed by the amount of rescues performed since temperatures dropped.

"We have been so pleased with the community acceptance," Wendy Knight, the executive director at Sea Turtle Inc. said in a Facebook video. "But all of these efforts will be in vain if we do not soon get power restored to our facility."

CNN has reached out to the organization, which is still suffering from power outages, and is awaiting a reply.

On Wednesday, Texas Game Wardens rescued at least 141 turtles from the Brownsville Ship Channel, near South Padre Island. Turtles of all sizes rested on the deck of its large rescue vessel and were taken to nearby facilities, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department spokeswoman Megan Radke told CNN.

Turtles can't survive in extremely cold water

The rescue effort began immediately for the Texas Game Wardens and the team at Sea Turtle Inc., who knew that turtles -- unlike other sea animals -- are unable to survive in extreme cold temperatures.

While animals like dolphins or manatees are able to regulate their body temperatures internally, sea turtles' body temperatures vary with surrounding water.

At very low temperatures, turtles can become cold-stunned.

According to the National Park Service, cold-stunned turtles are not able to move well. They become lethargic and often float to the surface or wash up onshore.

This can lead to death from shock or predation, or from boat strikes.

According to Sea Turtle Inc's Facebook page, the storm is the biggest sea turtle cold-stunning event to happen in south Texas.

With a new generator, turtles have hope, for now

On Wednesday, SpaceX provided Sea Turtle Inc. with a generator large enough to cover the organization's rehabilitation, education and conservation facilities, Knight said in a Facebook video.

Because of the generator, turtles already housed at the facilities, along with newcomers, have been able to warm up.

But the prolonged power outage has blown out all 10 of the facility's heaters and coolers, and each costs thousands of dollars to replace.

Despite this, the team at Sea Turtle, Inc. remains hopeful.

"For today, the sun is bright. SpaceX has provided us with a generator," Knight said. "And we are moving forward."

Animal casualties are on the rise in Texas

Turtles are not the only animals at risk in the winter storm.

This week, several animals -- mostly primates -- froze to death at a primate sanctuary in San Antonio.

The sanctuary, strapped for warming devices, evacuated animals to other facilities while trying to keep the rest as warm as possible with donated supplies.

As Sea Turtle Inc. is pushed to capacity, the organization has begun using the South Padre Island Convention and Visitors Bureau for more space.

They are asking for donations on their Facebook page, where they continues to issue updates.

Those who have found sea turtles are encouraged to call Sea Turtle Inc's emergency sea turtle line at 956-243-4361 or the Turtle Island Restoration Network at 1-866-TURTLE5.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 498560

Reported Deaths: 9939
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34150535
DeSoto31916399
Hinds31878624
Jackson24352379
Rankin21928388
Lee15450235
Madison14547279
Jones13789241
Forrest13428250
Lauderdale11944315
Lowndes10966185
Lamar10491135
Pearl River9454237
Lafayette8462138
Hancock7703126
Washington7371157
Oktibbeha7118130
Monroe6740174
Warren6656176
Pontotoc6620102
Neshoba6613206
Panola6466131
Marshall6398132
Bolivar6268146
Union596794
Pike5794152
Alcorn5646101
Lincoln5421134
George494979
Scott471198
Tippah466081
Prentiss464881
Leflore4631144
Itawamba4605105
Adams4577119
Tate4553109
Copiah445692
Simpson4423116
Yazoo440386
Wayne438572
Covington427894
Marion4222107
Sunflower4217104
Coahoma4127104
Leake407687
Newton381079
Grenada3700108
Stone358764
Tishomingo358091
Attala330589
Jasper328565
Winston313491
Clay306775
Chickasaw297867
Clarke290694
Calhoun278145
Holmes267287
Smith262450
Yalobusha232847
Tallahatchie225851
Walthall217763
Greene216048
Lawrence211440
Perry204855
Amite204055
Webster201845
Noxubee185940
Montgomery179356
Jefferson Davis170942
Carroll168238
Tunica159039
Benton147538
Kemper141341
Choctaw133026
Claiborne131637
Humphreys129038
Franklin119128
Quitman106328
Wilkinson104539
Jefferson94234
Sharkey64020
Issaquena1937
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 814363

Reported Deaths: 15179
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1141131910
Mobile722941323
Madison52048686
Shelby37315341
Baldwin37098540
Tuscaloosa34973599
Montgomery33996725
Lee23158240
Calhoun22168470
Morgan20675372
Etowah19770496
Marshall18258300
Houston17314405
St. Clair15924337
Cullman15333290
Limestone15239198
Elmore15095284
Lauderdale14163294
Talladega13728272
DeKalb12575259
Walker11096366
Blount10104174
Autauga9904146
Jackson9795180
Coffee9182189
Dale8866181
Colbert8794200
Tallapoosa7045195
Escambia6747127
Covington6688179
Chilton6595160
Russell626358
Franklin5936105
Chambers5562142
Marion4960126
Dallas4897199
Clarke473482
Pike4721105
Geneva4564126
Winston4478101
Lawrence4269117
Bibb421786
Barbour356075
Marengo334189
Monroe330662
Randolph327763
Butler324894
Pickens314082
Henry311265
Hale309487
Cherokee300557
Fayette291079
Washington251151
Cleburne247058
Crenshaw243775
Clay240867
Macon230762
Lamar218146
Conecuh185752
Coosa179038
Lowndes174161
Wilcox167838
Bullock151744
Perry138040
Sumter131138
Greene125844
Choctaw87027
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Fall like weather has dominated for the last few days, but a slight warming trend will eventually lead to increased rain chances, briefly, by mid-week.
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