The Florida Aquarium and its administrative offices will be closed starting at 3 p.m. Monday in preparation of Hurricane Ian, which is expected to reach Tampa Bay as a Category 3 storm.
A small group of essential personnel will remain at the aquarium to ensure the safety of the animals.
“Our first priority is safety,” Florida Aquarium chief operating officer Andrew Wood said in a statement. “We have secured the facility and taken all precautions to ensure the safety of our staff and animals.”
The closure will remain in effect until it is deemed safe to reopen, the aquarium said in a news release. Updates will be posted on the aquarium’s website and across social media channels.
The aquarium sits at Tampa Bay’s Channelside District by the water. The Florida Aquarium is in Hillsborough County’s mandatory evacuation Zone A, which wraps around the coast of the bay.
Hillsborough County officials are preparing to evacuate 300,000 individuals ahead of Hurricane Ian. Evacuation zones can be found here.
As for the storm, the county’s emergency management director Tim Dudley said the area expects to experience a significant storm surge. Hillsborough County is expected to experience a storm surge of up to 15 feet, as well as 30 hours of tropical storm force winds.
“Please treat this storm very seriously,” Dudley said. “This is not a drill. Be prepared for anything.”