September brought devastation to much of North Carolina. Hurricane Florence, which started out as a Category 4 and was downgraded to a Category 1 by landfall, brought severe destruction and flooding to a large portion of our coastal and inland areas.
The North Carolina Aquariums are grateful for the immense outpouring of encouragement received from supporters like you and our surrounding communities. This is a challenging time for all of us. Our families and our communities are struggling with recovery from Hurricane Florence.
We are fortunate that the Aquarium on Roanoke Island and Jennette’s Pier did not sustain major damage. We were able to reopen both to the public on Sunday, Sept. 16.
The Aquarium at Fort Fisher received the brunt of the storm, but fared well. Power returned early on, allowing the generators to be turned off, but we remained closed here until Sept. 25. Prior to the restoration of power, Fort Fisher struggled with only one of two generators working properly. Additionally, the main building chiller failed. A temporary chiller arrived at the Aquarium the Monday after the storm, and the connection and start-up of the chiller was completed just a few days later. With the chiller and HVAC functioning, the facility began cooling down, bringing habitat and life-support water temperatures down also. Because of the enormous devastation unloaded on the Wilmington area, much of Fort Fisher's Aquarium staff has been unable to return to their homes. However, a diligent team has worked to assist those needing a place to take respite from the wreckage.
The Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores did not sustain damage but went without power and relied on generator support for a significant time. We were able to arrange special fuel truck delivery, which helped us to continue operating our animal life support systems, and also allowed Pine Knoll Shores EMS a headquarters location after their own building was flooded. A small group of Aquarium staff managed to make it through island closures, downed trees and sketchy conditions to ensure the care and welfare of our animals and facility. This team also helped to clear roadways and begin the long process of cleanup. The Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores reopened Sept. 25.
Our hearts and prayers go out to the entire community as we slowly assess, create a plan, and begin the momentous effort of healing from the tremendous blow from this storm.
We thank each of you for your continued support, and will be updating our websites and social media pages with information regarding each of our exciting Trick-or-Treat Under the Sea events.