The first major storm to visit Virginia Beach has already come and gone. Isaias was certainly a powerful force and we are thankful to not have any damage from the high winds that raced through the oceanfront at over 70mph.
We get many questions about how we prepare the historic building for storms, and the short answer is that we actually do very little.
The main reason, of course, is that this 1903 Life-Saving Station was built for storms. In the past 117 years, the structure has seen every type of weather, from the strongest nor’easters to even more powerful hurricanes. From the USLSS, 1903 to 1915, the USCG, 1915 to 1969, to being empty, 1969 to 1979, to being a museum from 1979 to today, the Station building has weathered every one of those events without any type of major damage.
A major factor that helps the building survive is that the Virginia Beach Boardwalk is actually a very well designed storm management system. Check out the YouTube tour below for how it works.
A number of guests ask about the Lookout Tower, thinking that it must have been damaged and rebuilt over the years. It has not. The tower structure is the original USCG construction added in 1933. One of the interesting things about the Lookout Tower is how is moves in the wind. Like most tall structures, it’s built with flexibility. Stand very still in the tower in high wind conditions, and you can most distinctly feel it swaying.
Since the structure was restored to become a museum, modern hurricane windows were installed. They are amazingly effective. For the majority of weather events, we don’t even need to board the windows. In spite of how much confidence we have in the building we love so much, we do pull everything far from windows, remove computers, cover up other items that will stay, and blanket along the inside of the main gallery doors. From mid-summer through winter, our storm prep is a simple, straight forward process that works.
We worry a lot. Storm damage is always in the back of our minds. And when a massive storm is bulldozing its way closer, it’s very much in the forefront of our thoughts. The storms are bigger than ever, and a direct hit from a higher category storm has the potential to change all of our lives forever.