The National Hurricane Center is closely monitoring Hurricane Irma, which is turning out to be a storm capable of mass destruction.
The center's 11 a.m. update shows Irma is a few hundred miles east of the Leeward Islands with maximum sustained winds of 180 mph. Gov. Rick Scott has declared an emergency in all of Florida's 67 counties as the storm continues to move on a path that will likely affect Hispaniola, Cuba, and possibly South Florida.
Already, social media feeds show stores such as Publix running out of core supplies like water as people rush to buy supplies.
But Publix's director of media and community relations, Maria Brouss, says not to panic if your local store looks bare: Help is on the way.
"We know customers want water and shelf-stable items, so we are working on getting extended deliveries to replenish shelves," Brouss says. She adds that the supermarket chain is on a 24-hour production and shipment cycle for now and that if the storm progresses, shipments might slow or stop. "The safety of our drivers is most important."
Brouss says inventory might change rapidly, so try not to call a store to see if it has your favorite Fiji water in stock. "You may go into some stores and your favorite brand may be depleted, so we encourage customers to purchase what is available at the time." She says to shop creatively: A store might be out of small bottles of water but might have a supply of gallon containers. "We should have a culture of preparedness, but don't panic."
The Publix rep also gives some handy tips for shopping. In addition to water, canned goods, bread, and other staples, Brouss reminds shoppers to check their prescriptions to make sure they have enough medication to get them through the storm and for days after. She also reminds shoppers to get cash from the ATM and to remember your four-legged friends and restock baby supplies including diapers, formula, and baby food.
Right now, all Publix stores will remain open, but if the storm veers toward South Florida or there are mandatory evacuation orders for certain cities, Publix stores will close. "We are closely monitoring the track of the storm," Brouss says. Any extended hours or store closures will be posted on publix.com. That being said, don't wait until the last minute. Shop today if you can.
Brouss notes that Publix will work diligently to reopen as soon as possible after the storm passes. "We are aware that the community is not used to Publix being closed. We are in the best position to do so. We have generators in the majority of South Florida stores, and we have mobile generators."
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According to FEMA, every household should plan for a three-day supply of nonperishable food and one gallon of water per person per day. Additional must-haves include a first-aid kit, a can opener, a flashlight, a radio, extra batteries, moist towelettes, plastic utensils, duct tape, plastic sheeting, and a whistle to signal for help. Remember to shop for baby items like diapers and stock up on pet supplies like food and wee wee pads (you won't be walking Fido in a Category 5 storm).
In addition, Broward County's official website suggests the following hurricane shopping list:
- Crackers, dry bread sticks, pretzels, melba toast, rice and popcorn cakes, breakfast cereal, dry pasta, nutritional bars, bread (keep frozen until needed).
- Canned or packaged tuna, chicken/turkey, meat, soup with beans or meat, sardines, beans, chili with meat or beans, ravioli/spaghetti, ham/pork, stew, Vienna sausage, peanut butter and nuts, and commercially prepared beef or turkey jerky.
- Shelf-stable milk (keep chilled after opening), powdered milk (will need extra water), canned and boxed pudding (on grocery shelves, not in refrigerator section), nutritional drinks (e.g., Ensure).
- Canned vegetables, soups of all types (cup of noodles, canned), canned three-bean salad.
- Canned fruit, applesauce, dried fruits (raisins, dates, apricots, etc.) and 100 percent fruit juice (not fruit drinks or punch).
- Quick energy snacks such as trail mix, granola and fruit bars, cookies, hard candy, lollipops, instant coffee, tea bags.
New Times has calls in to Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe's to get information on store hours and hurricane programs and will update this post with further information.