Florida cold snap sends manatees scrambling to the shore for warmth

Dozens of manatees flocked to the Florida coast in search of warmth during North America’s brutal Christmas cold snap.

North America’s great Christmas cold snap affected everyone—even the manatees.

The sultry waters off Florida’s coasts draw countless tourists every season. But snowbirds aren’t the only mammals who flock to the shores in search of warmth.

A group of manatees put on a show for onlookers at Manatee Lagoon in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Monday, as dozens of the lovable creatures searched out a patch of warmer waters to endure the chilly temperatures that descended on the Sunshine State this weekend.

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West Palm Beach International Airport’s high temperature on Christmas Day only reached about 8°C, a far cry from their typical high of around 24°C for the date. The city’s overnight low dipped to just 5°C.

Hunting down a refuge from the relatively frigid temperatures, these giant, gentle manatees didn’t pick a spot at random.

Florida Power & Light Company operates a natural gas power plant on Manatee Lagoon, which drains warm water into the ocean as a byproduct of its energy production. This heated water attracts manatees looking for a respite from a stretch of cold weather.

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How cold did it get in southern Florida? The high temperature in nearby Miami failed to crack 60°F (about 15.5°C) three days in a row between December 24 and 26th.

That’s a far cry from the brutally bitter temperatures that froze just about everybody north of Florida this past weekend, but it’s all relative, and it was certainly a formidable stretch of chilly weather for this tropical city.

That three-day stretch beginning Christmas Eve was the first time in 45 years that Miami has seen daytime highs fail to reach that mark three days in a row, a testament to the intensity and endurance of the cold that gripped the continent.

Thumbnail image courtesy of NOAA/Unsplash.