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Sea Turtle Patrol Volunteers Monitoring Nests After Tropical Storm Fred

waves covering a turtle nest
Alligator Point Sea Turtle Patrol
Tropical Storm Fred pushes waves to shore, covering a sea turtle nest in Alligator Point, Florida, on Mon., Aug. 16, 2021.

Franklin County was spared significant property damage during Tropical Storm Fred, but the storm decimated sea turtle nests along its beaches.

Volunteers are watching and waiting to find out if any sea turtle eggs laid along Franklin County’s coastline survived Tropical Storm Fred.

Alligator Point Sea Turtle Patrol Director Michelle Darpel says all four nests were submerged— including one in which the hatchlings were due last week, but were washed out during the storm. "The eggs were completely lost," she said.

“The other the three were under water and washed over for a significant period of time," Darpel said.

This season is the worst on record for Alligator Point sea turtle nesting, she said. Fred made landfall on Aug. 16 near Port St. Joe, flooding the sea turtle nests along the coastline east of the storm.

But not all hope for their survival is lost. "Sea turtle nests can absolutely be washed over and still hatch successfully," Darpel said. "However if they are exposed to water for a prolonged period of time, there’s a greater chance that the water can actually infiltrate the egg chamber and in that case the eggs smother — they drown.”

Darpel says the sea turtle patrol will evaluate the nests in about two months to see if any of the eggs hatched. "We will continue to monitor the three nests that were inundated with water."

Those are likely the last eggs laid along the beach in Alligator Point this year. North Florida’s nesting season ended in mid-August.

"It's pretty devastating," she said. "Last year, unfortunately and this year have been difficult years storm-wise. When Hurricane Sally hit last year, we still had two nests that we were expecting to hatch, but unfortunately those were lost."

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Valerie Crowder is a freelance reporter based in Panama City, Florida. Before moving to Florida, she covered politics and education for Public Radio East in New Bern, North Carolina. While at PRE, she was also a fill-in host during All Things Considered. She got her start in public radio at WAER-FM in Syracuse, New York, where she was a part-time reporter, assistant producer and host. She has a B.A. in newspaper online journalism and political science from Syracuse University. When she’s not reporting the news, she enjoys reading classic fiction and thrillers, hiking with members of the Florida Trail Association and doing yoga.
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