Virginia Living Museum continues to recover from a flash flood

« Back to Zoo & Aquarium News


VLM Flood

Water surges over floodgates and through doors of the Virginia Living Museum on Aug. 25, 2012

Virginia Living Museum continues to recover from a flash flood

Sept 20, 2012

The Virginia Living Museum hopes to reopen its lower level exhibits in November, more than two months after an early morning flash flood inundated the entire lower level of the main museum building and the Wason Education Center.

While the lower level is closed, the museum is offering visitors a $5 discount on admission and free planetarium programs.

The museum was closed for three days following the Aug. 25 flood.

Maintenance supervisor Rick Lentz came in at 5:45 a.m. on Aug. 25 in response to a flash flood warning and installed the three flood gates, assisted by Herpetology Curator Travis Land. However, water from Deer Park Lake quickly covered the boardwalk and poured over the floodgates, which were designed to withstand a 100-year flood when they were created in 2004.

No animals were injured during the event, although the raccoons and beavers were relocated to safe areas. Several days after the flood, curators found two herons dead in the outdoor Coastal Plain Aviary.

Museum Executive Director Page Hayhurst said flooding like this had never happened before in the museum’s 45-year history. The museum sustained at least twice as much damage this time as from a flash flood in May.

After the May flood, the museum built a new house for the raccoons on top of the hill so that the animals can be away from future flooding. The museum had contacted the Newport News Stormwater Division and had begun talks with the College of William and Mary to conduct a hydrology study of Deer Park Lake to see if changes in the lake are contributing to the flooding.

Hayhurst said the museum is now even more committed to understanding the problem and finding a solution that will prevent the problem from happening again.

Much of the damage is covered by insurance, but the museum will have to pay a $50,000 deductible for the second time this year. Donations are being accepted to the Flood Relief Fund at

“We’re so grateful to the volunteers who came to help as well as the dedicated staff who were here throughout the crisis,” said Hayhurst. “Thanks to them and Peerless Carpet Restoration’s immediate remediation, we were able to reopen parts of the museum after only three days. We appreciate everyone’s patience as we work on the reconstruction of the lower level.”

For more information, please call 757-595-1900 or visit




Virginia Gabriele, Marketing Director
Virginia Living Museum


AZA Members: Submit your Zoo & Aquarium News