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Why were there 45,000 water bottles near the Brodhead Center?

Tens of thousands of water bottles sat untouched on Duke’s campus for days.

First spotted last week, the bottles sat at the end of Union Drive near the bridge connecting the Bryan Center plaza to the Brodhead Center. The Dasani water bottles were divided into two rows of highly stacked pallets and covered with a blue tarp that was weighed down by what appeared to be orange sandbags. 

By counting the number of bottles on the pallet and the number of pallets, The Chronicle estimated that there were approximately than 45,000 bottles in total. 

Robert Coffey, director of dining services, said the water bottles—gone by Tuesday afternoon—were stored in preparation for Hurricane Florence. When asked if The Chronicle's estimation was correct or for the total number of water bottles, Coffey did not specifically respond to that question. 

"Duke Dining's top priority is the safety and well-being of the Duke community and our team members. We have multiple emergency plans and protocols for inclement weather events," Coffey wrote in an email. "With the forecast of a direct hit by Florence we also followed FEMA's protocol for hurricane preparedness which is to have at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food and water on hand.” 

The unused water bottles were no anomaly in the wake of Florence. As the hurricane aimed for a hard pass through Durham early last week, Duke geared up. 

The Lemur Center armed itself with chainsaws in preparation for downed trees, students teamed up to house the campus’ resident feral cats and the University cancelled two days of classes in advance of the first rain drops and wind gusts. Then the storm changed path, almost entirely missing Durham.

The water bottles and food supplies were not used as storms passed through the area. And, with some 8 inches of rainfall in Durham over the past week, it seems that the area will not need much more water for now. 

However, the bottles won’t go to waste. Coffey told the Chronicle that all the products will be utilized in Duke’s normal business operation.

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