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NEWPORT NEWS - The Virginia Living Museum on Tuesday reopened its lower level exhibits which had been closed since flash flooding on August 25.

There are two new new exhibits: One is in the Virginia Underground Gallery with northern red salamanders, cave salamanders and slimy salamanders. The other is a crustacean exhibit in the World of Darkness Gallery. It has a variety of crabs and shrimp. Two exhibits have new animals: new rainbow and brook trout from the Montebello Fish Hatchery and new moon jellyfish from the Baltimore Aquarium.

Museum officials say volunteers who cleaned, painted and moved office materials were a big part of the reason it could open before year's end. They also say donors paid the $50,000 insurance deductible.

'We appreciate all the ways our friends have helped. We could not have done it without you,' said Executive Director Page Hayhurst.

The museum used the reconstruction period to make changes in hopes of reducing the flood risk and making recovery go faster. A plastic base was installed before wall sections were replaced and the entire lower level was repainted. New carpet has a waterproof backing. Waterproof vinyl flooring has replaced carpeting in many office areas. Cabinets and office furniture are being re-installed on spacers or legs. While the exhibit areas will reopen Tuesday, work continues on lower level offices and classrooms.

A monitoring system is now in place in Deer Park Lake to alert staff members when lake levels rise. The museum is working with Newport News Shipbuilding to design hinged storm gates for the three lower level doors and is investigating additional ways to block water from entering the current doors.

Results of a watershed hydrology study by The College of William and Mary are expected in the spring.

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