Weather News

Hurricane Dorian: Do you really need to buy bottled water in the Triangle?

Here’s a pre-hurricane quiz for Wake County residents who are served by the Raleigh water system.

When you turn on your kitchen tap, what comes out?

1) Bread, 2) Milk, 3) Eggs, 4) Water

If you answered No. 4, you can scratch one item off your pre-hurricane purchase list. (If you answered Nos. 1, 2 or 3, stop reading and call your plumber or your doctor.)

The point is that if you’re on Raleigh water, or any other major municipal system in the Triangle, you don’t have to buy bottled water as a hurricane approaches.

Edward Buchan, a senior utility analyst for Raleigh public utilities, said Tuesday as Hurricane Dorian threatened to reach North Carolina, “We don’t expect a whole lot of issues. The water supply should be perfectly fine. People can buy bottled water if they want, but this is why we have back-up power generators so you won’t have a loss of water service when the power is out.”

Even without the generators, water would flow for at least a day. The system runs on pressure and gravity and water flows until the water tanks run out. Meanwhile, reservoirs won’t be inundated. They are set at high elevations.

The Raleigh water system won an award last year for its disaster preparedness. It’s ready for the storm. The 600,000 people it serves don’t need to worry about water, and that includes those in the other municipalities it serves: Knightdale, Wendell, Zebulon, Garner, Wake Forest and Rolesville. Residents of Cary, Apex and Morrisville are served by the Cary system, which is also prepared to provide water during a power outage.

Despite those secure and sophisticated municipal water systems, people still rush into supermarkets to buy bottled water. Harris Teeter, for instance, reports that it has shipped an additional 380 truckloads of bottled water to the communities it serves which may be affected by Hurricane Dorian. That’s a jump from before Hurricane Florence, when the supermarket chain moved an additional 320 truckloads of water.

What does Buchan think when he enters a Raleigh supermarket before a hurricane and sees the shelves stripped of water bottles? His answer: “I think I should have gotten into the water sales business a long time ago.”

Buying bottled water is a sensible preparation for some people. Those who rely on well water could lose access to water if their electric-powered pump goes out. If you rely on well water, it’s prudent to keep three days’ worth of water (one gallon per person, per day) when a hurricane approaches. But there’s no need to buy it; put it in jugs from your tap.

Water customers on the Coastal Plain where municipal water systems draw from rivers also could have an interruption of water service because of flooding. Even in Raleigh, there could be isolated losses of water if the roots of falling trees break water pipes, though most pipes run along roads and away from tree roots.

If you’re served by a major municipal water system in the Triangle, the pre-hurricane message is this: Don’t go clawing after bottled water like people on a forced march across the Sahara. You will have water at home.

As for bread, milk and eggs, you’re on your own.

Follow more of our reporting on Hurricane Dorian

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