National Aquarium Stays Safe During Hurricane Sandy

Good Morning! All is well at the National Aquarium. Despite several strong wind gusts of between 60-70 mph through the night, our building and animal care facilities sustained NO damage! We are pleased to report that all of our animals and staff are safe and are getting back to their regular morning care routines. THANK YOU to our amazing, dedicated staff, especially the 21 staff who stayed overnight with our animals, and to Baltimore City Police and Fire for checking up on us and ensuring our safety. We are grateful to the community for sending us positive vibes! Hope everyone is safe this morning, and we are keeping our east coast neighbors in our thoughts today.

Our preparations for the weather began last week as our emergency team gathered managers from other essential departments such as biological programs and facilities. The larger team met to discuss our plans for the incoming storm. Many lessons were learned following our experience with Hurricane Isabel in 2003.

The line marking where Hurricane Isabel flooded our Baltimore venue in 2003

Even though the storm wasn’t set to hit until Sunday/Monday, our team took immediate preventative actions starting on Friday,  to prepare:

  • Aquarium vehicles and boats were moved to high and dry areas.
  • Flags and banners on our piers were taken down.
  • Facilities topped off generator fuel for generator use, if needed.
  • Outdoor equipment and materials, including construction items for our Blacktip Reef project, were secured or moved to safe internal areas.
  • Buckets of water and ice were made and stored.
  • Sufficient oxygen supplies were gathered and staged strategically throughout animal areas.
  • We also worked closely with the Baltimore City Police and Fire departments. We were happy to see them frequently thought the day and night yesterday for coffee and conversation – all other Inner Harbor coffee cafes were closed.
National Aquarium vehicles

National Aquarium vehicles on high ground in preparation for Hurricane Sandy

ice buckets

5 gallon ice buckets

At our Animal Care Center, our staff worked closely to determine all husbandry needs for both our quarantine animals and the Marine Animal Rescue Program (MARP) animals. Like at our main building, separate oxygen supplies were placed throughout the facility. Our team’s main concern were our blacktip reef sharks and stingrays destined for our new Blacktip Reef exhibit opening in summer 2013. Detailed plans for monitoring and administering sufficient oxygen for these animals were in place in the case of loss of power or life support systems. Our lizards and turtles are a bit more forgiving in these situations because they are air breathers, but our team still had plans in place for them as well to continue their comfortable, temperature controlled environments.

oxygen preparation

Aquarium staff prepping extra oxygen tanks

After carefully considering weather reports and information from local and state officials, the decision was made to close our Baltimore and Washington, DC venues to the public on Monday. Our number one priority is the safety of our animals and staff. Our emergency plans continued at this time, starting with the raising of our built-in flood gates.
flood gates

Aquarium staff work to prepare flood gates in Baltimore.

flood gates

Outdoor flood gates preparing for Hurricane Sandy

A critical team of 21 staff, including two team members at our Animal Care Center, prepared to stay overnight with our animals and guard against rising water and other possible emergencies. We closely monitored the water levels outside and reconvened for regular reports throughout the night. Winds were high, getting up to 60-70 mph between 11:00pm and 1:00am but our team, and animals, were safe inside riding out the storm! It was a long night but staff moral was high.
sleeping fish

Shhh! The animals are sleeping!

This morning, as we reported, we had no damage or issues to report! We continued to watch as high tide came and went and early morning husbandry tasks have already started taking place.
green sea turtle

Calypso enjoying a hearty post-hurricane breakfast!

We are pleased to say National Aquarium will be open tomorrow, Wednesday, October 31.
Again, we are truly grateful to our dedicated staff, as well as Baltimore City Police and Fire departments for checking in on us and ensuring our safety. We are also grateful to our online community who provided an outpouring of support and positive thoughts throughout the storm. We hope everyone is safe this morning and we are keeping our east coast neighbors affected by the storm in our thoughts.

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