Beached manatees were spotted in Florida as Hurricane Irma churned up the water along the state’s western coast.
The Category 2-Category 3 storm was strong enough to “suck” and pull water from Tampa Bay on Sunday, according to reports and social media accounts.
According to the Bradenton Herald, two manatees were seen stuck in the mud about 300 feet from deeper water—by Whitfield Avenue and U.S. Route 41 in Manatee County.
“Went out to the bay and saw two objects out where the water receded so we took off our shoes and walked out through the shells to find two beached manatees,” Michael Sechler said in a Facebook post on Sunday afternoon.
“We had to do something about it,” local resident Tony Faradini-Campos was quoted by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune as saying.
“We couldn’t just let those manatees die out there. We shared the pictures on social media and it just blew up.”
They had to get further assistance to move the manatees, which can weigh more than 1,000 pounds.
“We actually reached out to some friends who work for the county that ended up going out there and rescuing them,” Sechler, who helped discover the manatees, told the Huffington Post.
Then officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and sheriff’s deputies arrived to help move the animals, the Herald-Tribune reported.
Marcelo Clavijo, a Floridian, wrote on Facebook that he helped rescue the sea cows.
“It was a pretty cool experience,” Clavijo said. “We rolled them on the tarp and then dragged them a 100 [yards].”
In Tampa Bay, people were spotted walking out in the dried-up bay itself, prompting a warning from city officials not do to that.
A few hours later, after hitting Florida as a Category 3 storm in Key West, Irma was downgraded again to Category 2, with maximum sustained wind gusts of 110 mph, the National Hurricane Center said.
The National Weather Service in Key West said Irma is located near Fort Meyers and is moving to the north. Later Sunday, it should hit around Tampa.