Saturday, September 30, 2023

On the streets: Wilmington braces for Hurricane Florence as stores run short on supplies

Wilmington residents are in full preparation mode as stores run out of supplies ahead of Hurricane Florence.

WILMINGTON — As Hurricane Florence intensified and continued its course toward the Southeastern U.S. coast on Monday, residents of Wilmington were doing everything they could to prepare for an expected life-threatening coastal storm surge and flooding.

At Lowe’s Home Improvement at Porter’s Neck, Chris Graham and his father Larry were loading thick sheets of plywood into Chris’ construction van.

We’re getting the house ready so I can leave the area,” Larry said. “He’s gonna stay and make sure it’s all here when we come back.” 

“We came from Ohio, it’s our first big (hurricane),” Chris said. “I’m feeling a little bit anxious but I’m excited man, I can’t wait to see what she’s got.” 

Ben Clark, 37, who has lived in Wilmington his whole life, expressed more apprehension.

“This may be the first time I ever leave for a hurricane,” Clark said, loading packages of water bottles onto a lumber cart in case he decides to stick around. “We’ll see. Just the size of it, the rainfall, how slow it’s moving. It’s going to sit on top of us for 48 hours essentially. I’ve got two young kids.”

A homebuilder by trade, Clark was focused on prepping around 80 houses currently under construction before turning to his home in Marsh Oaks and finalizing evacuation plans for his family.

While overseeing a forklift load bags of concrete onto a flatbed work truck, Lowe’s employee Zach Gore talked about his own evacuation plans.

“I got family who live over in Lumberton, where during Hurricane Matthew they got destroyed, and they’re looking to evacuate back to Lumberton. Yeah, I’m thinking I won’t do that. If I evacuate I’ll probably go more inland,” Gore said. 

While Lowe’s faced shortages in materials like plywood on Monday afternoon, store manager Brian Vinson said his company was well prepared for the coming storm.

We’ve been very prepared. Our command center has gotten out in front of it this year. We prepared early this year and unfortunately it looks like it’s going to hit us in a bad way. We will be here for our community before, during and after the storm,” Vinson said. 

While the store faced a shortage in plywood, Vinson said a truck shipment was on its way.

“This particular market runs from Moorhead City down to Conway, South Carolina. Every store is prepared with generator trucks on the road, water trucks on the road, batteries, flashlights.”

He also said a generator runs the entire store so if power goes out they will be open and ready for their customers, stockers will be loading supplies from a constant supply of trucks 24 hours a day, and cleanup materials are on the way for after the storm — trucks of drywall, plywood, sump pumps, mops, buckets, bleach and chainsaws. 

Lowe employees from locations outside the impact zone will come assist after the storm, “giving our employees time to take care of their family needs here in town,” Vinson said.

Monday evening gas station lots along Oleander Drive were either empty, with plastic bags labeled “Sorry Out of Service” covering the gaz nozzles, or overloaded with lines of cars, many fueling up for evacuation.

Standing in a checkout line at a Scotchman-Exxon gas station off Oleander, Karen Hughes discussed her own evacuation plans with other customers in line.

“I’d rather have it tear down my house then hurt my family,” Hughes said. “God bless us all.”

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