How will Idalia affect sea turtle nests on Hilton Head Island?

This summer, 343 sea turtles nests were counted on Hilton Head Island. But a chaotic concoction of the full moon’s king tide and Hurricane Idalia’s storm surge could cause trouble for many of them.

Amber Kuehn, a marine biologist and director of Sea Turtle Patrol Hilton Head Island, said there are a couple of concerns related to Wednesday’s storm.

One concern is the loss of sea turtle nest locations if waves from the storm surge pull posts that mark the nests out of the sand and into the ocean. Then, as the waves bring in sand, the nests can get completely covered.

As of Wednesday morning, 114 nests were marked on the beach.

In 2017, Hurricane Irma resulted in the total loss of 54 nests. Kuehn said she isn’t a weather expert but thinks Idalia being over land, as opposed to being off shore, could mean a calmer storm surge.

“Since this one is affecting us from behind, it might be a different scenario as far as surge goes,” she said.

The other concern is nests flooding. The nests can handle overwash but being left completely submerged can result in an successful nest.

Like the nests going unmarked, it’s hard to say how common that will be without knowing what the tide will look like at its peak.

If you wake up to see that a nest in your area has become unmarked, don’t worry. Kuehn says Sea Turtle Patrol volunteers will take care of it. They’ll be equipped with GPS in order to find and mark the nests again and check for damage at noon on Thursday.