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Hurricane Idalia and Manatees, Ft. Myers, FL.,  2023

On August 30, 2023, Hurricane Idalia was in the Gulf of Mexico, West of Lee County Florida.  A regular duty of John Richmond, a SCADA Engineer for the Department of Transportation in Lee County, was to check the conditions of numerous DOT structures via their remotely operated cameras, especially during storms and hurricanes.  At approximately 7:16 a.m. John activated the camera at the Whiskey Creek Country Club to observe the site and surroundings.  With the Hurricane west of the area, it's winds and storm surge had kept waters high in Whiskey Creek, and prevented drainage out of the golf course canals.  The water control weir, a curved concrete wall that regulates water flows from the golf course west through Whiskey Creek, was found to be submerged.  This was a very unusual situation, but a distinct possibility due to the winds and storm surge pushing waters east.

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Pictures of the Whiskey Creek weir from the remote camera.

This picture shows the weir during normal flow conditions.

This picture shows the peak flooding during the storm surge of Hurricane Idalia.

The depth of water over the concrete weir is 16 inches.

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The remotely operated, Pan-Tilt-Zoom camera at Whiskey Creek weir site.

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Location map of Whiskey Creek Drive, concrete weir, and golf course canals

During his period of observation, John witnessed maybe two manatees swimming on or near the weir.  From experience with the camera images and position of the weir, it was fairly certain that the manatee had actually swum up and over the weir wall.  The 16 inches of water depth would have been quite enough for the animals to wiggle through.  Even if they scraped their underside on the weir, it is smooth concrete and was probably pleasant to them to get a tummy scratch.  Suspecting that the manatee would travel further into the canals, it was also certain that they would become trapped behind the weir wall when the storm surge passed and the waters receded back down to, and below, the weir level.  John alerted the management of DOT of this situation, who in turn alerted appropriate FWC staff.  The FWC staff contacted John, who relayed further explanation of the events.

The following video was recorded live at the time the manatee were passing over the weir wall;

1 - Manatees over weir,  0:35 min

On September 6th, John was again reviewing the DOT structures via the cameras, and witnessed the FWC's efforts that were set in motion for the rescuing of what turned out to be FIVE manatee.  Here are several more videos from the same DOT camera at the site, illustrating the rescue processes.

2 - Rescue activities, one manatee being evaluated, 5:45 min

3 - Rescuing young manatee to shore, 1:50 min

4 - Transporting young manatee to truck and evaluation, 6:10 min

5 - Rescuing an adult manatee to shore, close-up,  1:06 min

6 - Carrying adult manatee toward bridge,  4:05 min

7 - Crossing bridge to evaluation,  9:06 min

8 - Evaluation & treatment close-up,  8:00 min

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