Back-to-Back Tropical Storms Approach Gulf Coast
Last week's projections that two tropical storms will wallop the Gulf Coast simultaneously will not pan out, as Tropical Storm Laura veered away from Florida and slowed down slightly. Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Marco has stayed the course, but lost strength as it barrels towards Louisiana and Texas, according to CNN.
On Sunday night, Marco was downgraded to a tropical storm and conditions in the Gulf of Mexico make it unlikely to regain strength. This is a welcome relief from the worrying predictions that first suggested the Gulf Coast, a region experiencing spikes in coronavirus cases and struggling to turn around testing in a timely manner, would have to prepare for two powerful hurricanes striking within hours of each other.
Instead, it looks like Marco will run along the coastline as it fizzles out, dropping rain later today and tomorrow, according to CNN. And yet, right behind Marco, Laura is gaining strength in the Caribbean and may become a category 2 storm when it makes landfall on Wednesday or Thursday.
Even though Marco is expected to lose strength, meteorologists are still unsure of how Laura will behave and are urging residents to prepare for the worst.
"You need to be prepared to ride out the storms, you and your family, wherever you are at dark tonight," said Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana said during a news briefing on Sunday, as The New York Times reported warnings that residents may need shelter in place for as long as 72 hours. He added that Laura could delay both search and rescue teams and power companies from addressing power outages.
The impending storms forced Louisiana to shut down its state-run coronavirus testing centers for Monday and Tuesday, while New Orleans will shutter its city-run testing sites today, according to The Washington Post. That could mean trouble if people start to become complacent about their vigilance or if they start to congregate in order to find shelter from the storm.
In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster to enlist the National Guard to run sanitation teams and mobile testing units, which can help ensure that people test negative and are safe to relocate. Abbot also said that it is possible to convert two facilities treating COVID-19 patients in Houston and San Antonio into emergency medical shelters, according to The Washington Post.
In Houston, Mayor Sylvester Turner said residents should include coronavirus testing as part of their hurricane preparation. He said in a press conference that it would be selfish of residents not to get tested for the virus before going to shelter with others. That sort of complacency could lead to a resurgence of the virus, said Turner, as The Washington Post reported.
"Hurricanes are unpredictable, no matter how much science we have," said Richard Zuschlag, the chief executive of Acadian Ambulance based in Lafayette, LA, which is in the paths of both storms, as The New York Times reported.
Meteorologists said that while Marco could cause storm surges of up to six feet along the Mississippi River, Laura might drive them up to 10 feet. The storms will hit as a one-two punch and are expected to inundate the southern parts of Louisiana with five to 10 inches of rain, according to The New York Times.
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Hundreds of endangered sea turtles were stranded on beaches after suffering "cold stunning" in the waters off Cape Cod, Mass. Local rescuers and wildlife rehabilitators stabilized the turtles at the New England Aquarium (NEAQ) and National Marine Life Center and began treatment. Many of the sea turtles were transported by land or air to partner facilities around the Eastern Seaboard for longer-term care to make room for more incoming, cold-stunned animals.
Rehabilitators at The Turtle Hospital in the Florida Keys assess critically endangered, cold-stunned Kemp's ridley sea turtles flown in after rescue in New England. The Turtle Hospital<p>NEAQ and local rescuers begin seeing turtles every fall when water temperatures drop to that 50 degrees F threshold, and typically expect to find them into early January. After that, <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/sea-turtle-cape-cod-weather-2621527394.html" target="_self">temperatures are so cold that any animals found are usually no longer alive</a>.</p><p>Merigo estimated that this year's cold season "looks very busy" and noted that local rescue efforts had already surpassed 400 turtles.</p><p>"It is a lot of animals. They're still coming in," she told EcoWatch as she surveyed 39 rescued turtles that day and 20 the day prior. "So far, this is a huge year."</p><p>At NEAQ, the turtles are gradually warmed up about five to 10 degrees F a day. More aggressive warming can cause serious damage and the turtle might not survive, Merigo said. Emergency treatments also include providing replacement fluids, balancing electrolytes and addressing pneumonia. Assessments take place for other serious problems too, such as shell or limb fractures, frostbite, emaciation and eye damage.<span></span></p><p>As local aquariums don't have the capacity to care for all the injured turtles, a group of private pilots called <a href="https://www.turtlesflytoo.org/" target="_blank">"Turtles Fly Too"</a> donated planes, fuel and time to transport some to various partner facilities around the country. Other turtles were driven to closer care facilities.</p><p>"We have a huge network of really great partners working with us, so if we can spread out the care, we can give better care to all the animals," Merigo said.</p><p>The 40 Kemp's ridley sea turtles recovering in The Turtle Hospital will continue to be treated and rehabilitated anywhere from 30 days to a year, depending on the severity of injuries, Zirkelbach said.</p><p>The turtle expert noted that while she's treated cold-stunned turtles from the north before, the newest arrivals were the most cold-stunned Kemp's ridleys ever received at one time.</p>
After rescue, cold-stunned sea turtles received immediate emergency care and assessments at the New England Aquarium. Caitlin Cunningham / New England Aquarium<p>In the past decade, the Gulf of Maine, which spans from Cape Cod to Nova Scotia, has warmed 99 percent faster than the rest of the ocean, Zirkelbach said. The warm water encourages turtles that migrate north along the Gulf Stream in warmer months to stay in the bay longer.</p><p>"Turtles that fail to migrate south get stuck in the unique horseshoe-shaped topography of the Cape Cod peninsula, and when temperatures drop, the bay becomes a death trap," she added.</p><p>Before ocean temperatures warmed, the waters of Maine were too cold for many of these sea turtles, Merigo echoed. Now, with warming sea surface temperatures, Maine can reach the high 70s to low 80s, which is "perfect turtle temperature," she said. The potential for more turtles getting trapped in the bay and then cold-stunned is nerve-racking for Merigo.</p><p>In addition to shifting habitats as waters warm, warming global temperatures also disrupt natural gender balance in sea turtles, Merigo warned. Gender is determined by the temperature of eggs in nests, and as the planet warms, it will result in all females at some point, she said.</p><p>"The turtles we work with are all endangered and threatened," Merigo said. "For sea turtles in general, the future is a little grim. Climate change is real; it does impact them."</p>
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