Thousands Of "Stunned" Sea Turtles Rescued In Brutally Cold Texas

The turtle rescue center had run out of space, forcing them to temporarily house the saved turtles at the City of South Padre Island Convention Center. Image Courtesy of Sea Turtle, Inc.

With brutally cold weather continuing to rage in Texas, thousands of sea turtles have been rescued from the frosty coastline.  

Texas is currently enduring a bout of freakishly cold weather with parts of the southern state hitting -18ºC (0ºF) on Sunday February 14 and temperature expected to stay extremely low throughout this week. As cold-blooded reptiles, sea turtles can be left stunned and lethargic if they're exposed to cold temperatures for too long, eventually washing up on the shore. They are also especially vulnerable to predators and boat accidents while in this cold-shocked state. 

After thousands of bewildered turtles were found along Texas's southern coast during this recent cold snap, a huge community effort has been mounted to save some of these troubled sea reptiles.

Conservation group Sea Turtle Inc, based on South Padre Island, reported on Tuesday night that they had saved over 2,500 turtles. They later told CBS News on Wednesday morning they have rescued over 4,000 turtles. Off the back of this effort, volunteers tweeted on Tuesday that their turtle rescue center had run out of space, forcing them to temporarily house many of the saved turtles at the City of South Padre Island Convention Center.

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Perhaps even more remarkably, much of this effort was made throughout the power cuts that have wracked the state. 

“It’s unprecedented,” Wendy Knight, the executive director of Sea Turtle Inc told The Washington Post. “A cold stun like this could have the potential to wipe out decades of hard work, and we’re going through it with no power and a unique, more catastrophic challenge to our efforts.”

The green sea turtle is the most common sea turtle in Texas, although the species can be found throughout tropical and subtropical oceans worldwide. Texan waters are also known to be frequented by other species of sea turtle, including loggerhead sea turtles, leatherbacks, hawksbill sea turtle, and Kemp's ridley sea turtle.

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Houston, a city southeastern coast of Texas near the Gulf of Mexico coast has an average temperature of 14ºC (57ºF) in February. However, this year, much of Texas has been wracked with some of its coldest temperatures in more than 30 years. This devastating weather is all down to air being pushed down from the Arctic. As explained by the Associated Press, cold air is typically concentrated around the north pole in the polar vortex, an area of low pressure that swirls high above the North Pole. Typically, Arctic air is kept here by the low-pressure systems, but a recent blip has caused cold air to "escape" and head towards the South Central region of the US. 

The weather has proved catastrophic for some. Along with blackouts leaving millions of homes and businesses without power, the New York Times reports at least 23 people died in the storm or its aftermath.

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