Mother Nature delivered a belated Christmas gift to New Smyrna Beach, Florida, on Dec. 26, with residents gathering to see the metal behemoth that washed ashore.
The "gift" was a bright red, 21-foot-long, 8-foot-wide buoy with a white "8" near the top. Previously used as a channel marker to guide ships, it had traveled over 300 miles from Port Royal Sound off the coast of South Carolina after being torn loose from its mooring after Hurricane Dorian, the U.S. Coast Guard said.
But this wasn't the first time the buoy had gone rogue. In 2017, it had been uprooted from Charleston, South Carolina, and washed ashore Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported that this occurred during Hurricane Irma.
Until the U.S. Coast Guard clarified the story of the two separate occurrences, there were reports that the buoy had been lost at sea for two years after Hurricane Irma and had recently washed ashore for the first time.
"The buoy broke away in 2017 and was recovered shortly thereafter," spokesman for the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan Dickinson told the outlet. "Then, after Hurricane Dorian rolled through, (Coast Guard Sector Charleston) did an inspection of all the buoys."
It has not yet been determined exactly how the buoy broke loose from its mooring in either occurrence.
Although Hurricane Irma's path took it up the west Florida coast and into Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee, impacts from the powerful storm did stretch to the coasts of the Carolinas.
Charleston, South Carolina, received 8 inches of rain, strong winds and a battering surf from the storm.
— NOAA Satellites (@NOAASatellites) September 11, 2017
Like the red jeep that Dorian had stranded on Myrtle Beach, the red buoy attracted a crowd of beachgoers. A few even took to climbing the marker as it sat precariously tilted in the sand.
But on Thursday, Volusia County contractors came to transport the buoy. The temporary tourist attraction will be taken to Jacksonville to evaluate whether it can be used again, officials told The Associated Press.