Stranded manatees rescued as Hurricane Irma sucks away Florida shores
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS – NICOLE HENSLEY
Hurricane Irma’s fierce winds washed Florida’s western waters out to sea, exposing helpless manatees and hundreds of yards of soggy seabed near Tampa and Sarasota.
As Irma raged along its northward warpath Sunday, about 100 curious onlookers, some with selfie sticks, trekked 200 yards into what is normally four feet of ocean water in the Old Tampa Bay.
Some pet owners let their dogs splash about the drained basin, video shows.
Forecasters warned gawkers to stay clear of the exposed beach, warning that at least 10 to 15 feet of a “life-threatening storm surge” could return at any moment, according to the U.S. Hurricane Center.
Police cleared the seabed of brazen beachgoers ahead of Irma’s arrival, the Tampa Bay Times reports.
Several good Samaritans, including two Manatee County Sheriff’s deputies, ignored the urgent warning to rescue a pair of beached sea cows in the emptied Sarasota Bay. The mammals were found stranded amid pools of shallow water and seaweed near Whitfield.
Rescuers trudged through several inches of mud to load the hefty manatees onto tarps and dragged them to deeper water, witnesses said.