Sandra Carter and her husband woke up this morning to read up on Hurricane Irma. The latest news — that the storm had grown into a Category 5 monster that threatened a direct Florida landfall — was enough motivation to take the whole day off to get ready. The pair made two stops at Fort Lauderdale stores before they found bottled water. Then they headed to the Home Depot at Sunrise Boulevard and NE Fourth Avenue to pick up plywood for the windows of their house.
"We're so afraid it's going to happen like it was in Texas," Carter said as the couple tied the plywood to the roof of their SUV. "It's so scary because of what we've already seen. You have to prepare yourself."
Store shelves were running low across South Florida by Tuesday morning as locals hurried to prepare for Hurricane Irma, which is already one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes in history. The Carters eventually left the Sunrise Home Depot frustrated after they weren't able to find a generator.
At a Publix in downtown Fort Lauderdale, only carbonated and flavored water remained on the shelves just after 10 a.m. An employee told shoppers the store would be restocked by tomorrow morning. Some left empty-handed.
At a Walmart on University Drive in Davie, customers picked the shelves clean of anything they could find. A jar of pickles was knocked to the ground in the frenzy, and many nonperishables like soup and canned fruit were mostly gone.
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"It's not what I'd like, but it's what was left," said Barbara Meyer, who was looking for water and canned goods but failed to put any in her cart.
Another woman, Maxine Candy, had picked up some chicken broth and was still on the lookout for yogurt, bleach, and other items. She had come all the way from Sunrise, farther north, to look for bottled water.
"I was already at Aldi because I heard they had water," she said. "The lines there were stretching around the building."