The Turtle Hospital Was Ready For Hurricane Irma

The Turtle Hospital Was Ready For Hurricane Irma


The Turtle Hospital is located in the heart of the Florida Keys. We’ve been rescuing, rehabilitating and returning turtles to the wild for over 30 years. We are located in Marathon, which is an island and We were affected by Hurricane Irma which hit us in early September. We had sustained winds somewhere around 130 miles per hour. It affected our turtle enclosure, the steel structure racked and the shade cloth got ripped up, but the way we have that designed, we anticipate wind, so it did not blow away. We were able to recover it and actually sew it back together to have kind of a temporary shade for the turtles, but the best news is the turtles all survived. We moved them from close to the bay to the center of the property, which is above flood, in tanks that were actually built after Hurricane Wilma. With Hurricane Wilma we got 5 foot of storm surge in on the bay side. It flooded the turtle enclosure and those turtles actually floated out of their pools and they were contained with the fence, but it was not a good situation. So we learned from that. We built tanks in the middle of the facility on higher ground, and then we evacuated those turtles with Irma coming and moved them to a safer place and they did survive and those tanks stayed intact. So the important thing is being prepared when the hurricane comes. We know we live on an island. We know we’re in a hurricane zone, so we just continue to try to do better each year and learn from our experience. We’re in the surgery suite here and this is the heart of what we do. This is where the operations and where we do really critical care for sea turtles. As you can see, you’re going to see a lot of expensive equipment. We have ultra sound, anesthesia machine, CO2 lasers, we have endoscopes and radio scalpels, all really important equipment for us to function. It’s on the ground floor so what we do now in the event of a hurricane is we move all that equipment to higher ground. There happens to be another story to this building so we literally moved all this equipment upstairs when we heard Irma was coming. With Hurricane Wilma we were not as smart and this equipment stayed. It’s heavy, and nobody, you know, we didn’t think to move it and when the flood came, unfortunately we lost the equipment, so this time we were prepared. Another good way to be prepared when a hurricane’s coming is to make sure you have the supplies that you can be self sustaining. We had over 40 animals at that time. We made sure we had plenty of food supply. We had back-up generators for our food freezers. We also had dry food, which again, we stored on a higher level so it was not in the flood zone and we had plenty of water. So if one of the bridges were to cut off to our island, we would be self sustaining for a few weeks. So that’s really important when you know a storm is coming. Yes, help gets there, but you don’t know how long it’s gonna take them, so you want to make sure that you have all the supplies you need to be self sustaining for at least a couple of weeks.

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