On Long Island, Irene irks humans and penguins alike


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The seals in front of Atlantis Marine World swam about happily as 60-mph winds whipped over them Sunday morning.

Inside Long Island’s waterfront aquarium the staff was having less fun as Tropical Storm Irene blew past the eastern end of Long Island.


The founder of Atlantis, Joseph Yaiullo lives nearby, but he got a room at the hotel next door to be ready for anything. He ended up spending most of the night at the aquarium checking up on the otters and sharks and sea lions.

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‘It’s a little hard to sleep with all the creatures over here,’ said Yaiullo. ‘It’s kind of like having a family with thousands of members.’

The African Penguins, who live in an outdoor enclosure next to the water, seemed less sanguine than the seals. The penguins skipped breakfast and generally acted out of sorts.

‘They can be rattled a bit,’ Yaiullo said.

The alligator enclosure was flooded, but the staff had moved the reptiles inside Saturday, along with the occupants of the nearby inner tidal marsh exhibit.

Inside the Sea Lion Coliseum, residents Java and Bunker were swimming around, apparently quite cheerful, and still preening for treats.


‘The sea lions have a just-been-there-done-that kind of thing,’ Yaiullo said.

Yaiullo sized up damage as he walked around wearing brown rain pants held up by yellow suspenders. A tree was down in the flooded parking lot, and the dock used by the aquarium’s boats was under three feet of water.

Overall, though, Yaiullo and his watery charges had been prepared for worse.

‘We lucked out,’ he said. ‘This could have been really bad.’


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-- Nathaniel Popper in Long Beach, N.Y.

penguin pavilion at Atlantis Marine World. Credit: Nathaniel Popper / Los Angeles Times