Originally created 09/15/99

Residents stock up on water, generators



Augusta resident David Edlund stacked $1,000 worth of chain saws, sheets of plywood, flashlights and extension cords in the back of his pickup Tuesday.

A general contractor, Mr. Edlund said he is preparing for cleanup and repair jobs that Hurricane Floyd inevitably will leave in its path.

"I'm just going to do some work wherever it hits," he said, adding that he chopped and cleared fallen trees and repaired homes for Myrtle Beach residents when Hurricane Bonnie hit last year. "I've been watching the hurricane, and I decided this morning that I might as well get ready for it."

Mr. Edlund joined several area residents Tuesday -- some of whom took time off from work -- who were buying supplies they thought would carry them through the storm and its aftermath.

Customers loaded trucks with materials they purchased from Augusta building supply stores and headed to relatives' houses and family property in coastal areas that are expected to be hit the hardest, said Home Depot Manager Alan Green.

"We've got four lumber trucks coming in from Atlanta to help people board up property if they need to," Mr. Green said.

Tarps, flashlights, charcoal, outdoor-propane stoves and batteries were pulled to the front aisles of local stores.

Supermarket managers ordered hundreds of extra bottles of water to meet the demand of local residents who also are stocking up on batteries and canned and dry-foods.

In Columbia, Tammy Padula loaded a car with groceries at the Edenwood Shopping Center Bi-Lo. She said she never prepared for previous hurricanes but decided she had better get ready for Floyd.

"I don't know why," she said. "I think it's something about that line about this being triple the size of Andrew. I'm not panicked, but I am playing it safe."

Aiken Publix Manager Todd Blease said "a ton of people from Charleston and Savannah" have come by to pick up sodas, chips and canned food.

"Stocks are holding, and we're not about to be depleted," said Aiken Bi-Lo Manager Bill Bradshaw, adding that the store's sales were 50 percent higher than its Tuesday sales average.

"One woman came in this morning and left with three shopping carts of bottled water," said Rick Webb, Aiken Big K super store replenishment manager.

But what area customers really wanted -- and could not seem to find -- were generators.

"We looked at HQ, Sam's and Lowe's for a generator, and there aren't any," said Debbie Gibbons, carrying a flashlight and AA and D-size batteries to the Home Depot cashier.

Mrs. Gibbons, a Lincolnton resident, found no generators on Home Depot shelves either.

A demand created by customers who have been buying generators all year to prepare for Y2K is blamed for the scarcity, HQ Assistant Manager Robin O'Neill said.

At Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse Store on Bobby Jones Expressway in Martinez, a display of 30 electric generators dwindled to three in a little more than an hour. Lowe's Assistant Manager Terry Chappell said those generators were being purchased both for local use and for people along the coast.

"As soon as I hit the door, I noticed a crowd of people around the generators," Mr. Chappell said.

"We are getting about 10 requests per hour," said Sam's Wholesale Manager Robert Gibbons, adding that seven of the eight generators the store stocked were purchased by the same customer.

While the store had no luck finding generators for its depleted stock, Wal-Mart placed an order Tuesday for a truckload of bottled water and 100 extra bags of charcoal to stock its two Augusta locations, said Mike Bright, assistant manager at the Bobby Jones Expressway store.

"Until we see where this thing is going to hit, we are not going to supply all of our stores," said Jami Buck, spokeswoman for The Home Depot regional distribution centers. "We are in the process of holding, because we want to be able to supply those areas that are hardest hit."

Reach Clarissa J. Walker at (706) 828-3851 or cjwalker@augustachronicle.com.