Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Ever wonder how an aquarium prepares for major storms like Hurricane Irma?

The fish pool outside the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. (Port City Daily file photo / HANNAH LEYVA)

KURE BEACH — For more than four decades, the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher has faced every weather system thrown at it head on because, when it comes to marine life, evacuating isn’t a viable option.

So, when it came to preparing for Hurricane Irma, the predicted path of which was uncertain at best for most of the past week, the staff at the aquarium had plans in place.

Since Tuesday, aquarium staff had been preparing for the potential impact of the storm on the facility and its aquatic residents, Robin Nalepa, public relations coordinator, for the aquarium said.

When it comes to preparing for storms at the aquarium, it starts off similarly to a homeowner’s preparation, she said. Preparing the grounds are the first on the list, removing any potential projectiles, taking down flags, and other basics. But, unlike homeowners, evacuation doesn’t come next.

Preparation is especially important for the aquarium because the aquarium is surrounded by marsh and wetlands, Nealepa said.

The logistics of trying to move aquatic animals from an aquarium in the event of an emergency is cumbersome at best, and the stress of attempting to move them is harmful as well, Nalepa said. So they, more or less, shelter in place.

Generators play a large role in protecting the marine life that call the aquarium home. They provide power for the important life support systems that help keep the animals happy and healthy.

“Our life support systems provide oxygen for the fish and keep the water clean and healthy. Without power for an extended period of time, conditions would decline and the health of the fish would be at risk,” Nealepa said.

The aquarium, Nealepa said, has several contingency plans to deal with any type of emergency situation. For now, they will continue to monitor the storm at hand, Hurricane Irma.

Michael Praats can be contacted via email at

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