Stores struggle to keep up with demand for storm supplies

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – With Hurricane Irma appearing set to reach South Florida by Sunday and march up the state, residents touched by Hurricane Matthew last year and spooked by the devastation of Hurricane Harvey two weeks ago are taking this one seriously.

Experts urge people to have enough food and water for your family to last several days.

"It's better to be prepared. We went through Matthew and Andrew and a whole bunch of other hurricanes," Maria Voss said.

Five days out, people living in Northeast Florida are cleaning out the shelves of supermarkets and home improvement stores as they prepare for Hurricane Irma. 

Residents have cleared out cases of water from many grocery stores and generators are gone from all Lowes and Home Depots in greater Jacksonville. Most locations are also out of plywood.

Ace Hardware said a shipment of generators was coming Thursday.

Some stores told News4Jax that shipments they expected over the past couple of weeks were diverted to Houston.

Water on the shelves at the Winn-Dixie on Baymeadows Road sold out in less than an hour. The Lowe's at River City Marketplace said it got 20 pallets of water Tuesday morning and sold it all in two hours. 

Costco and the Walmart off Philips Highway across from the Avenues Mall were sold out of water by Tuesday morning.

"They're running out of water at Costco right now and some of the nonperishables," said Naveen Modali, who was one of hundreds in line at Costco who were trying to stock up on essentials in preparation. "I think it's a positive reaction to what has happened in Houston. No one is going to take this lightly, in my opinion."

Costco said it's planning on getting more water in by Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning. Other stores said they were expecting shipments of water and other supplies, but they couldn't confirm when they were arrive. Because it's going so fast, some supplies are stacked on pallets at the front or side of stores, so they may not make it to the shelves.

Mid-afternoon Tuesday, News4Jax found water at the Walmart on Collins Road, but it was going fast.

Late Tuesday afternoon, the Winn-Dixie store on Old St. Augustine Road had water and the store on University Boulevard was expecting a shipment at 5 p.m.

"You’ll see it, too, when you’re shopping ... gas stations are backed up," Jackie Hanyecz said. "It’s scary."

As of 8:30 p.m., there was no water at the Jacksonville Beach Publix. 

In St. Johns County, the Publix on State Road 16 had very little water left Tuesday night, and most of batteries had already flown off the shelves of the store. There was also very little bread left, only buns and rolls. 

Lines form at gas stations

Long lines formed Tuesday night at several gas station in Northeast Florida. 

The Gate gas station on San Jose Boulevard near the Julington Creek Bridge was packed with drivers who were filling up their tanks. A sign posted on one of the pumps read, "Sorry, premium only." But at one point, a tanker truck brought in more gas.

People could also be seen lining up for gas in the area of the World Golf Village in St. Johns County. 

The Alachua County Sheriff's Office also tweeted Tuesday evening, saying "Hurricane Irma is quickly depleting gas stations in Alachua County. Be sure to fill up."

Saving money money while being prepared

Some storm preparations won't cost you a dime.  Consider bottling your own water by using old soda or water bottles, but not milk or juice cartons because they can harbor bacteria.

Also clean your bathtub, then fill it with cold water. It won't be drinkable, but you can use it to flush toilets and keep yourself clean.

For the stuff you have to buy, check sales flyers and compare prices for the things you must have. Also, look at dollar stores for essentials. They usually sell batteries, hydrogen peroxide, bleach and bandages. Any buy generic. Consumer advocates say generic will work just as well as the name brands.

Finally, you should spend money on certain items because they can prove priceless. Battery-free emergency items like wind-up flashlights and weather radios. Plus, handheld cellphone chargers are a must if you're going to be without electricity for very long.

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