Photo submitted Brooke Bowersox and Brian Mahardy model the best in hurricane fashion.

Photo submitted
Brooke Bowersox and Brian Mahardy model the best in hurricane fashion.

By M. LISA MONROE
Express Editor

Old Forge native Brian Mahardy is waiting out Hurricane Irma with a few finned friends at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Clearwater, Fla. On Sunday evening, Mahardy said that the hurricane had turned east and was starting to weaken.
“The storm moved from the east coast to the far west coast. So for days I helped friends from the east coast evacuate and setup places for boats and yachts to relocate to the west coast. Then on Thursday we woke up to a ‘wobble.’ But I wasn’t scared, I was prepared,” he said.
Mahardy, the aquarium’s dive coordinator, is hunkered down with 12 co-workers making sure that the animals are cared for and safe. The group will live in the aquarium until the danger has passed.
“We have a very detailed and organized hurricane plan. Once we knew the hurricane was heading into Florida we put the plan into action. We have enough food and supplies to make it look like a DiOrio’s sale. As a northerner, we know how to shop to make sure we are setup,” said Mahardy. “There are way worse places to be living and sleeping.”
The facility has hurricane doors that drop down to cover all of the openings. The glass in the aquarium is rated to withstand winds of 150 mph or more and has generators and back-up generators.

Photo submitted Brian Mahardy smooches a friend at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Clearwater, Fla.

Photo submitted
Brian Mahardy smooches a friend at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Clearwater, Fla.

There are still many things that have to be taken care of to assure the safety of the 40 rescued animals that live in the facility. There is prep work for the fish, they have to monitor the water quality and the dolphins need to be played with so that they don’t get bored. The rescue turtles were on the base level so they were moved to higher ground.
Mahardy secured his home and left it to weather the storm.
“Yes, I made the second hardest move in my life. That’s leaving Old Forge as the first,” he said. “It was the most surreal moment when I walked out of my house and locked the door what could be the last time.”
On Monday the hurricane was downgraded to a Category 1, by Tuesday people should be able to get out and see what the damage is. We wish safety and smooth sailing for Mahardy and all of his friends and co-workers.