As Hurricane Irma churns in the Caribbean, hitting islands such as Barbuda that are smaller than the monster storm's eye, South Florida continues to prepare for the storm.
Miamians, however, are panicking as they find empty shelves where water should be. Last evening, on a quest for water and supplies, no less than five locations were either out of bottled water or had only one or two designer brands on the shelf.
At 4:30 p.m., the Miami Shores Publix was busy but not yet stressful, as managers and employees restocked items such as canned tuna and soup. As soon as a box would be opened, shoppers loaded the items into their carts. The water aisle, however, proved to be dry. The only items left were a few cases of La Croix, which were quickly going.
The Home Depot in North Miami didn't have any water at 5 p.m.
Whole Foods Market in North Miami had run out of water by 5 p.m., and people were queued up around the store for a chance to fill their containers at the market's water filtration machine. A wine vendor, busy serving samples to anxious shoppers, said the vibe of the store was very different from that of just a few days ago when people were buying supplies for Labor Day cookouts and pool parties.
The Walgreens on Biscayne Boulevard at NE 90th Street was completely out of water. In South Beach, shoppers dropped pricey bottles of Fiji and SmartWater — the only brands to be found — into their baskets at the Walgreens on Alton Road at Tenth Street.
Last night, Tropical Supermarket on NE 79th Street had water — and lines around the store to purchase the in-demand bottles.
Both Instacart and Amazon Prime Now seem to have water in their inventories, but there are no delivery times available until Sunday.
Finally, stores are trying to replenish water and supplies as best they can. Publix's director of media and community relations, Maria Brouss, says the chain continues to bottle water in its distribution centers and will continue to truck in the water until it's not safe to do so. "We are still having deliveries of water made." Brouss adds she is aware of photos of empty shelves being posted on social media. "There's a high end of sensitivity and awareness." Brouss says inventory fluctuates store by store and minute by minute, so it's best not to call your local Publix in advance. "If they call the store and ask if there's water, the answer to that may very well be yes, but the water is out by the time they get there."
Professional organizations such as the Red Cross and FEMA state that a proper hurricane kit should have at least a gallon of water a day for each person in the household for at least three days. So what do you do if you can't find water?
Miami-Dade's finest — water from the tap — is still perfectly potable and can also be used to wash. Fill whatever containers you have, including buckets, pails, old bottles in your recycling bin, and food storage containers. Fill your bathtub with water. Ziplock bags also make good on-the-fly containers. Another way to ensure your family has drinkable water is to buy bleach. A quarter-teaspoon of bleach can purify a gallon of water.
Updated September 7 at 11 a.m.: Most breweries in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties are open today and will fill growlers or any other container you have with filtered water. Details here.
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Updated September 7 at 11 a.m.: The Publix at 90 and Biscayne Blvd. in Miami Shores has water: Fiji and designer water is unlimited and Publix gallon jugs are a limit of two per person.
Updated: A spokesperson for Whole Foods Market North Atlantic and Florida Regions says the company is trying to restock water and nonperishables. "We are hard at work around the clock to keep our shelves stocked with all of the essentials to help our customers prepare for this storm. Availability of high-demand supplies is fluctuating throughout the day, but we have orders placed to continue to receive shipments to all of our stores as long as we can safely do so this week. We have well-established plans in place for events of this nature; however, team member safety will remain our top priority."
Updated September 6 at 1:10 p.m.: The Home Depot in North Miami (12055 Biscayne Blvd.) just received a shipment of water from Crystal Springs — only large bottles meant for water coolers.
Updated September 6 at 2 p.m.: Biscayne Bay Brewing (8000 NW 25th St., Suite 500, Doral) will fill your containers with water prior to the storm. The brewery plans to stay open as long as it's safe to do so.