July 6, 2012

After the Storm

Tropical Storm Debby arrived on Saturday June 23 and appeared to be much like other tropical storms, that is, until it decided to stick around. The high tides and winds associated with the storm wreaked havoc on the beaches and the timing could not have been worse. 

View of Sanibel's beach during Tropical Storm Debby

Statewide, Florida has seen higher than average sea turtle nesting this summer. Debby arrived just as the earliest nests laid were beginning to hatch. At the time of the storm there were 207 nests on Sanibel and 86 nests on Captiva. Overall, the storm washed away 65 nests on Sanibel and 62 nests on Captiva.  At least 130 of Sanibel’s nests and 15 of Captiva’s nests have been washed over by high tides and some have had excess sand deposited on top.  Seven of Sanibel’s nests appear to have made it through the storm unscathed and five of Captiva’s nests appear to have remained dry.

Sea turtle nest under water during Tropical Storm Debby

The silver lining is that while tropical storm Debby damaged many of the nests on the beach at the time of the storm, the storm occurred with two months left in the nesting season. Sea turtles wasted no time in returning to the beaches to nest, as soon as there was beach on which to nest. Since the storm, an additional 42 nests have been laid on Sanibel and seven nests on Captiva, and nesting shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. Some of the nests washed over by the high tides have even hatched since the storm. While the success of these nests is below what we would usually see, it is promising that some of the hatchlings survived and continued to develop despite the high tides.

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