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Duke Receives Minor Damage From Hurricane Irene

Duke Receives Minor Damage From Hurricane Irene

Marine Lab in Beaufort reopened for business

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Duke Marine Lab, seen from Beaufort, received minor damage from the hurricane.
Duke Marine Lab, as seen here from Beaufort on Saturday, received minor damage from the hurricane. (Photo by Cindy Lee Van Dover)

Durham, NC - As the 440-mile wide Hurricane Irene pounded the North Carolina coast on Saturday, the storm only toppled a few trees on Duke's campus in Durham, which emerged relatively unscathed. 

At the coastal Duke Marine Lab in Beaufort, initial reports Saturday afternoon indicated relatively minor damage from wind and rain. Duke officials there plan to assess the situation more closely today.

Personnel across Duke, from police and facilities to student affairs and transit, have been monitoring the storm since early last week. On Saturday, with rain and wind gusts up to 45 mph, staff responded to a range of calls, from downed trees and branches to a power outage at student housing off the Duke electricity grid. No injuries were reported on campus.

"We were ready for the worst," said Kyle Cavanaugh, Duke's emergency coordinator and vice president for administration. "None of these weather events are ever the same, but our teams were prepared and responded quickly to ensure our community was safe and had access to essential services."

Irene was a Category 1 hurricane when it made its first landfall just before 8 a.m. Saturday near Cape Lookout, N.C. Duke's main campus escaped the brunt of the storm, which brought wind gusts of 45 mph and nearly a half-inch of rain to Durham by early Saturday morning. By comparison, 115 mph wind gusts were reported near Cape Lookout, and Beaufort County got 10 to 15 inches of rain, according to the National Weather Service.

"It was a large hurricane, slow moving, so the effects were felt over a longer duration," said Brandon Dunstan a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Raleigh. "We really haven't had anything like this in a while."

A slight drizzle Saturday evening from the remnants of Hurricane Irene did not deter nearly 1,200 first-year students from a party at the Nasher Museum of Art.

Nearly 1,200 first-year students attended a party at the Nasher Museum of Art on Saturday evening despite drizzle from the remnents of Hurricane Irene. (Photo by Dr. J Caldwell)

On Duke's campus Saturday evening, a slight drizzle did not deter nearly 1,200 first-year students from a party at the Nasher Museum of Art, where they danced to DJ music, munched cookies and viewed modern and contemporary art.

Some students said worried parents had texted them all day. A few noticed that a tree fell on West Campus.

"It was windy and a little damp," said Sejal Lahori of Houston.

Mike Tomaino of Morristown, NJ, said he and friends had prepared for the storm by buying garbage bags to make a "slip n' slide. "They scrapped the plan because of too little rain, he said. "We were excited to use it."

Destiny Hemphill of Tennessee said the hurricane was more of an inconvenience than anything. "I was just more annoyed by the rain."

The most significant damage reported on Duke's campus in Durham involved downed trees, including a 40- to 48-foot willow oak. The tree fell and hit the right side of the West Duke building Saturday afternoon. No one was injured. In addition, large branches from a few other trees fell during the storm. The storm also knocked out electricity in homes of some Duke employees living near campus. Local utility crews restored power at many locations by Sunday morning.

On Saturday and into Sunday, Duke crews fanned across campus to clean up. 

The Durham forecast for today, Monday and Tuesday calls for sunny skies with high temperatures between 85 and 92. Campus events, including an 11 a.m. Sunday service at Duke Chapel and a 4 p.m. presentation by Maya Angelou for first-year students, are proceeding as planned. In addition, the Forever Duke Block Party will take place as scheduled from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday outside Forlines House, 614 Chapel Dr. 

Updates about Hurricane Irene's impact will continue to be posted on Duke Today.

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