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."
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 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.