Jacksonville - Recent cold weather caught sea turtles off-guard before they could reach warmer Gulf Stream waters, and that has led to nearly 25 rescues along the North Carolina coast in the past week.

Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center on Topsail Island has rescued numerous cold-stunned sea turtles since Thursday, said Jean Beasley, the hospital's executive director.

"We're overwhelmed, this has never happened before -- at least not since the turtle hospital has been in existence," Beasley said. "We had 11 turtles come in last Thursday, 12 on Saturday and six (Sunday). We're frantically trying to make more space."

"Cold weather started it all -- with the precipitous drop in temperature, these guys can't regulate their body temperature," volunteer Karen Sota said, adding that most have been green turtles around 2 years old. There are also a few loggerheads.

Beasley expects that there could be more turtles in trouble. People can help by looking for turtles in the shallow waters -- particularly in marsh grasses, where they aren't easily spotted. Beasley said that turtles should be brought to a sheltered place and that they need to slowly warm up.

"Those caught in shallow water are going to be in real trouble because they have no ability to produce any body heat," she said. "We've had some who came in with body temperatures in the 30s ... Normally they need to have body temperatures over 70."

Sota recommends taking any found turtles home and putting them on a towel in a utility room. "Do not put it in warm water," she said. "We're warming them up slowly, giving a course of antibiotics and trying to get them to eat."