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Why is everyone buying up bottled water? Will Irma shut off Charlotte’s faucets?

Major storm risks that could threaten Charlotte's water supply

Barry Gullet, director of Charlotte Water, talks about how the utility is prepared for a number of potential interruptions in service including a hurricane.
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Barry Gullet, director of Charlotte Water, talks about how the utility is prepared for a number of potential interruptions in service including a hurricane.

Judging from store shelves, Charlotteans are panicing about Hurricane Irma’s threat to our water supply.

Scoring a case of bottled water at Harris Teeter or Publix is like winning the lottery.

But why?

Will faucets suddenly stop flowing just because the wind picks up? Will heavy rain render our water undrinkable?

Short answer: Not likely.

The three biggest threats to Charlotte’s water supply in coming days will be:

  • Fallen trees uprooting and rupturing neighborhood water service lines underneath (typically smaller lines).
  • An increase in overflows from sewer manholes and lift stations because of large volumes of storm water runoff infiltrating the wastewater collection pipe network.
  • Damage to above-ground sewer pipe creek crossings because of floating creek debris.

“None of these situations would result in large-scale or extended service interruptions,” officials with Charlotte Water said.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper says that NC still needs to be prepared for a shift in the path of Hurricane Irma and resources are currently being shifted to the western part of the state.

Still, city staff are preparing for all worst-case scenarios, including additional pumps and backup generators. Low-lying facilities are also being shored up against flooding and wind damage, officials said.

So, should Charlotteans be worried if stores are out of bottled water?

No.

Experts recommend having water on hand before the storm, but you don’t have to buy it. Just fill up some food-grade gallon jugs (thoroughly cleaned), pitchers or larger Tupperware bowls with lids.

FEMA suggests at least one gallon of water per person per day, as well as water for pets. Three days worth is best, in case of power outages that last for days.

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