"I'll say it's about 4 miles across Core Sound," Horvat told McClatchy in an email. "Remember, the cows and all the horses were swept away with the water surging back. Who knows exactly, but the cows certainly have a gripping story to share."
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Horvat speculates the cows will have to be sedated and taken back to Cedar Island by boat.
The cattle — affectionately known as "sea cows" along the coast — are part of a wild herd co-managed by Woody Hancock, who told McClatchy he is working on a plan to get the trio back.
National Park Service officials said Tuesday they have given him 30 days. "After the 30 days, the park will have to deal with it. I'm not sure what the plan would be if the park deals with it," Horvat told McClatchy.
Hancock believes the cows were swept away when an 8-foot "mini tsunami" hit Cedar Island as Hurricane Dorian made landfall in North Carolina. However, it wasn't water from the ocean, but storm surge from the other direction, experts say.
The hurricane pushed water into coastal bays, creeks and rivers, and all that storm surge rushed back toward the Outer Banks as the winds shifted, experts say. The resulting "wall of water" hit not only Cedar Island, but caused devastating floods on Ocracoke Island and ripped up sections of the coastal highway, NC 12.
An undisclosed number of wild horses from Cedar Island were found dead on Cape Lookout after the storm, and video surfaced on social media of one allegedly seen floating in the Atlantic Ocean.