A sudden onset of freezing temperatures has caught many of the creatures too far north and left them lethargic and unable to move.
"I think the temperature's just dropped so quickly that they haven't gotten out yet," Christina Trapani of the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center told the (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot. "They should be going somewhere warm."
Cold weather stuns some turtles every year, said Mark Swingle, director of research and conservation at the aquarium, but the number of turtles this year is "a little unusual."
"We're very close to having a full house," Swingle said. "By the end of the weekend, we're going to be full."
On Friday 11 turtles, including Kemp's ridleys, green turtles and loggerhead turtles, were taken in by the aquarium.
Six had been transferred from facilities in New England, and the rest were found in Hampton Roads. Two more arrived from North Carolina on Saturday, aquarium workers said.
The Network for Endangered Sea Turtles in Kitty Hawk, N.C., operates a rehabilitation center for cold-stunned and injured turtles at the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island.
Once there, the turtles are gradually warmed up.
"You can't just stick them next to a heater and warm them up fast," NEST President Karen Fitzgerald said. "You have to do it slowly."
Last winter, nearly 70 cold-stunned turtles, a record number, were rescued by NEST volunteers, Fitzgerald said.
It was too soon to compare this year's numbers to last year's, the Virginian-Pilot said.