Thousands of 'cold-stunned' sea turtles rescued from Texas coast amid record-breaking deep freeze

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Texas -- A Texas nonprofit rescued approximately 3,500 "cold-stunned" sea turtles from record-breaking temperatures that walloped the area and fought to keep the animals warm during a days-long power outage.

Sea Turtle Inc. in South Padre Island started rescuing stunned turtles on Sunday and told locals to contact them if they see turtles in need.

Sea turtles become "cold-stunned" when water temperatures go below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The cold-blooded animals become sluggish and lethargic when their body temperatures plunge, according to National Geographic.

Temperatures on the state's southern coast dipped into the 20s this week, even though average highs for this time of year are in the 70s, according to the National Weather Service.

The nonprofit issued an emergency alert via social media at 2 a.m. Monday when it lost power and could not sufficiently heat the turtles' tanks. By afternoon, it had hundreds of turtles in its facility and moved hundreds more to the city's convention center.

"We have been so pleased with the community acceptance ... but all of these efforts will be in vain if we do not soon get power restored to our facility," Wendy Knight, the executive director of Sea Turtle Inc., said in a Facebook video posted Monday.

By early Wednesday morning, however, SpaceX installed a commercial generator that was able to bring power back to the facility. Knight said organizers still need to "assess the damage that has been done" while the power was out, and 10 of Sea Turtle Inc.'s tank heaters broke during the outage.

Meanwhile, volunteers throughout the area, many without heat and power in their own homes, volunteered to rescue as many turtles as they could, city officials said.

Utility crews raced Wednesday to restore power to nearly 3.4 million customers around the U.S. who were still without electricity. As of Friday, many Texans who lost power for days now have it back, but the crisis was far from over in parts of the South with many people lacking safe drinking water.

Click here to support the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), which is hoping to raise at least $50,000 to support what is likely the largest sea turtle cold-stunning event in Texas history.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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