Even as high waters and winds ravage facility, the reliability of plastic containers remains unsinkable.

Tony Barnes has a deep appreciation for the design and durability of the plastic containers used at his workplace. They survived a hurricane, after all.

Barnes is the store manager at the Greenville Utilities Commission (GUC) in Greenville, N.C. In 1999, the GUC Support Services Center was using cardboard and wood containers as well as Ropak plastic containers when Hurricane Floyd slammed into the East Coast. The Tar River crested its banks, and water flooded into the facility. Workers evacuated the center as waters rapidly rose to a depth of 6 ft.

When the workers returned to the facility two weeks later, widespread wreckage confronted them. Floodwaters had swept away or destroyed the cardboard and wood containers. Worse yet, several hundred electric poles had broken loose, left to float like toothpicks through the storage yard and warehouse. They smashed into things when afloat and then demolished anything beneath them as they sunk to the ground when the floodwaters receded. Anything, that is, but the Ropak containers and the equipment stored in them.

“The Ropaks we had were in our warehouse as well as in our open yard area, and they took a real beating. But when we got back, only one drop door had been damaged on one container,” Barnes says. “The water had swept several Ropaks on top of each other, but they held up well. They didn't turn upside down, and the product stored in them stayed in them.”

Barnes believes the Ropaks, manufactured by LINPAC Materials Handling, Georgetown, Ky., held their ground so well in the floodwater because their open construction allowed water to flow through them rather than carry them away. And the containers' built-in ventilation ensured any waterlogged product stored inside them dried quickly when the floodwaters receded.

In the aftermath of the flooding, Barnes immediately doubled an existing order for Ropaks.

“If we have to leave any behind in an evacuation, we know they'll be here when we return,” he says. “I don't know if Ropaks were meant to withstand a flood, but they sure do.”