Monday, March 4, 2024

Aquarium at Fort Fisher weathers Hurricane Florence, ready for reopening

The aquarium suffered minor flooding, power outages, and failed chiller - but the animals remained healthy and the facility is ready to open on Monday.

Minor flooding impacted the aquarium at Fort Fisher (Port City Daily/Courtesy NCAFF)
Minor flooding impacted the aquarium at Fort Fisher (Port City Daily/Courtesy NCAFF)

KURE BEACH — Despite facing struggles, including power outages and a chiller failure from Hurricane Florence, the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher is ready to reopen.

According to a press release from the aquarium’s spokeswoman Robin Nalepa, “Initial storm damage assessments of the aquarium found no major damage and animals in good condition. Low-lying areas on the aquarium grounds, including gardens and the Nature Play area, sustained minor flooding and downed trees. Water levels are slowly subsiding and the aquarium team continues to remove vegetation and debris.

“The Butterfly Bungalow, a temporary, seasonal exhibit will not reopen. The exhibit was originally scheduled to close on Sept. 30. The outdoor, seasonal dinosaur exhibit remains in place. However, additional assessments and repairs will be ongoing due to flooding,” she said.

Power did go down at the aquarium but life support systems for the fish and other animals was powered by a generator.

“After the storm a small, dedicated team cared for and fed the animals on a daily basis. On Saturday, aquarium staff discovered the main building chiller was not functioning. The chiller cools the entire building as well as all marine and freshwater exhibits,” Nalepa said.

Without a functioning chiller the entire aquarium was at risk of catastrophic failure, but fortunately for everyone involved a replacement chiller was located and delivered with help from the state.

“Every exhibit was impacted by that chiller not working,” said Brian Dorn, associate director, N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher. “Without it, the temperatures would have risen outside the upper limits of most of our animals and they would not have been able to sustain that for very long.”

“The Aquarium is grateful for the support and assistance it received from the community, first responders and others during this time,” said Dorn. “So many people are reeling from the impact of Hurricane Florence, we hope in the weeks to come the Aquarium can provide guests an opportunity for solace through the animals and experiences they have come to know and love here at Fort Fisher.”

The aquarium will reopen to the public on Monday.


 

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