With a brand-new, storm-untested building located on Biscayne Bay, the Frost Science Museum faced its first hurricane yesterday as the effects of Irma tore through downtown Miami. Today, as South Florida assesses the damage left behind by wind, rain, and storm surge, the museum reports that all of the animals it houses survived unscathed.
"As of Monday, September 11, we are able to report that all of our exhibitions and animals remain safe and intact," a museum spokesperson said in an email to New Times, "while our Museum Park campus experienced only minor damage to the landscaping and security gate."
That's likely due, at least in part, to the design of the Frost's new, state-of-the-art facility in downtown, which was constructed to better endure storms. When it comes to flooding, for instance, museum stands out—literally.
"Our building was also designed and constructed to take storm surge into account, which helps minimize the risk to the building and its exhibitions," said a spokesperson for the museum. In fact, the Plaza level sits 21 feet, 8 inches above sea level—that exceeds Miami-Dade County’s requirement by over 50 percent.
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Museum staff also relocated the animals on the Vista level of the museum — the open air story that usually houses birds on display behind netted habitats, as well as snakes and alligators.
"Our birds and reptiles will be all be placed in an interior holding facility," a Frost spokesperson told New Times in advance of Irma's arrival in South Florida. "The safest place for our fish is in their respective aquatic habitats." Museum personnel also rode out the storm at the museum to lend a hand in case of emergencies.
Now that Irma has passed, Frost Science staff says the animals will remain safe during the aftermath. "We have backup generators as well as systems in place that allow us to ensure the animals will be safe from harm—even during a major hurricane—for an extended period of time."
For now, those animals will have the museum to themselves. "The museum will remain closed as we continue to assess the state of the campus," the Frost spokesperson said. "We stand with our community during this challenging time and hope for its continued safety and swift recovery."