A meteorologist is facing backlash after tweeting a heartbreaking video of a cat stranded in treacherous conditions from Hurricane Ian.
The cat found itself stuck in floodwaters on Wednesday as the category 4 storm came ashore in southwest Florida, bringing 155mph winds, heavy rain and a storm surge.
Dylan Federico, a weather man for WINK News, shared a video of the cat huddled up on a bench outside the news station on Palm Beach Boulevard in Fort Myers.
“Storm surge is rising rapidly outside WINK News. A kitten is on the bench trying to escape the water,” he wrote. “The doors are locked but we’re trying to get the kitten inside.”
Dozens of concerned Twitter users began asking what happened to the cat before Mr Federico deleted the earlier tweet and said in an update that the cat was not saved.
“Right after the video was posted we attempted to get to the cat but it swam in a different direction out of view,” the meteroiogist said. “I waited to post an update in hopes we could grab it. Please take your companions with you when you evacuate.”
Many condemned the weather man and WINK News for filming the cat instead of attempting to save it, which some said was a form of animal exploitation for Twitter clicks.
One user claimed: “Covering Hurricane Ian is one thing but if you’re gonna post about a kitten and not save it, then I’m sorry. That post is for clicks… Go out and save the darn thing”.
“Too bad the kitten didn’t come into WINK news instead of dying in Hurricane Ian’s storm surge,” wrote another user. “Are you responsible, too? Is there a reason no one could help the animal instead of watching cruelly from the window while recording its terror?”
A third person argued: “The unfortunate reality is that in these types of storms, people and animals are going to lose their lives. However, it’s an active choice to take a video of a stranded kitten in hopes of some engagement and clicks AND posting it. That’s the issue Dylan.”
Fellow weather man Brant Beckman meanwhile came to Mr Federico’s defence and wrote: “Every door is locked with metal flood gates on the outside.”
“Dylan kept an eye on the cat while they made every attempt to get to it even with those gates in place but this entire thing happened in a matter of minutes,” he added. “Dylan loves animals. No one’s hurt about this more than him.”
Mr Federico, who continued to document flood water breaching the WINK News building, said he was evacuated from the building on Thursday morning after evacuating to the second floor.
The Independent has approached WINK News for comment.