Florida beaches are flooded with starfish after Hurricane Sally made landfall this past week. Marine biologists are studying the unusual – and ongoing – situation.
Hurricane Sally has been one of several hurricanes to ravage the coast during 2020’s unmatched, historic hurricane season. The storm brought intense flooding, tidal waves, and damaging winds to the Gulf of Mexico states. Alongside the damage to communities, marine animals are having a tough time with the tropical storm, too.
Hundreds of species have been impacted by the hurricane. Some – like these fire ants – are capable of surviving such storms. Others, like these starfish, can end up in great peril.
Navarre Beach – a shore that rests northwest of the Florida panhandle – is seeing the distressed animals wash up in droves. Some are DOA, others are fighting the sands to return to the ocean.
What about Hurricane Sally has starfish so unusually impacted?
Starfish live in the inner tidal zone of the ocean. When a hurricane hits the ocean and shore, intense currents stir up their habitat. As a result, the creatures end up on the beach – and in some cases – even further inland.
The chief of Navarre Beach Fire Rescue, Danny Fureigh, spoke to Pensacola News Journal on the unusual occurence:
‘You have this big surge of water coming inland from several miles out, and then washing back out with everything it touches. It’s like a big toilet bowl, pretty much. We were the only beach flying double red flags because of the water quality.’Chief Danny Fureigh, Pensacola
Residents and news agencies documenting starfish disaster
According to the science station in the area, the starfish residents are seeing are Royal Starfish. The scientific name of the species is Astropecten articulatus – its common name coming from their bold purple coloration. The species is populous in the western Atlantic Ocean, and they are among the most common starfish living off the US coast. As a result, their populations have been hit particularly hard.
Although starfish have been unusually visible in Hurricane Sally’s aftermath, many other species are being affected, too. An oyster toad fish is among those to wash up – alongside “thousands of jellyfish” and clams.
FOX4 News is covering the happening, as well, quoting a stunned local teacher who’s never seen anything like this in her career:
Thankfully, the storm has passed. The aftermath, however, is shocking. Terrential flooding and damage from winds in excess of 100mph have communities scrambling during relief efforts. As with many hurricanes before it, Sally will have Florida recovering for months to come.