UPDATE: ALL Smithsonian Museums and the Zoo Remain Closed on Tuesday

From the Zoo’s many critters to the Castle’s chimneys, the Smithsonian prepares for severe weather

Hurricane Sandy heads north. Courtesy of the National Hurricane Center

UPDATE, Tuesday, October 30, 2012: Museums and the National Zoo remain closed, but Metro rail and bus service will open at 2 on a limited Sunday schedule. All museums and the National Zoo will open tomorrow on time on their regular schedules.

UPDATE: The National Zoo has announced it will remain closed through Tuesday, October 30, due to conditions from hurricane Sandy. The Smithsonian museums also will remain closed in both Washington, D.C. and New York City. Metro rail has announced that all rail and bus service will be shut down also on Tuesday.

UPDATE: The Smithsonian Institution has announced that all museums and the National Zoo in both the Washington, D.C. area and in New York City will be closed tomorrow, Monday, October 29, due to Hurricane Sandy.

The following statement was just released: “In New York, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian George Gustav Heye Center is closed, due to the impending storm. The Cooper Hewitt, National Design Museum continues to be closed for construction. The Smithsonian will provide further information if the storm affects the Washington, D.C. museums.”

In addition, the National Portrait Gallery reports that the  1812: Portraits of War Edgar P. Richardson Symposium,  scheduled for tomorrow has also been cancelled.

With reports rolling in that the D.C. area might be headed for a collision with Hurricane Sandy, the Smithsonian is hard at work preparing for the weather. The Washington Post’s weather gang has been following the storm and reports that, “analyses suggest this storm may be unlike anything the region has ever experienced.” But don’t worry, the Smithsonian has it covered.

With so many adorable animals, including the two-week old dama gazelle who made her debut on Wednesday, the Zoo has a big task but one caretaker Juan Rodriguez says they are ready.

Rodriguez, who works with the pandas as well as other outdoor exhibits, says, “My area is a little bit more susceptible to damage than other areas, like the Elephant House and the Great Ape House. For the houses, everything’s all indoors, so they’re sheltered.” As the storm heads further north, Rodriguez says the team will keep an eye on the weather and assess the situation each morning.

“We’ll probably just leave them inside if the winds are above 50 miles an hour or so,” says Rodriguez, adding that, “If they’re near trees and a tree falls or a branch falls and breaks the fence line, some of those areas have no secondary containment, so we need to keep them inside.” Animals with indoor-outdoor access, like the fishing cats and clouded leopards, will likely have to stay inside if the weather takes a turn for the worse.

But Rodriguez says, the animals don’t tend to mind. “As long as they’re fed at the same time, they’re happy.” In fact, the toughest transition for the animals tends to be the time change in the spring that sets their eating schedules back an hour.

Up at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, Maryland, the staff are taking precautions for the weekend. With 2,650 acres of land to manage, SERC also has waterfront to manage. Press officer Kristen Minogue says they’ve been moving boats, including large research crafts off docks and out of the water for safekeeping. “On a brighter note,” says Minogue, “our nutrient lab said they’re looking forward to finally getting some rain because they’ll be able to take stream data again. Their nitrogen research has been on hold since the streams stopped flowing in the summer.”

Meanwhile, the Institution remains optimistic that the museums will be able to stay open. Last August, when Hurricane Irene threatened severe weather, the museums prepared with 1,000 sandbags to prevent flooding, backup produce and dry feeds for Zoo animals and plywood, metal and nylon bands to secure the Castle’s turrets and chimneys.

UPDATE: This post was updated on October 28 after the announcement was made to close all of the museums and the National Zoo for the impending storm.


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