The good news if you’re heading to the ShopRite in New City is that the very early displays of Halloween candy are mostly untouched.
The bad news is that’s about all that’s untouched.
With Hurricane Irene inching her way north and expected to land in Rockland early Sunday morning and sticking around through the afternoon, residents all over the county set out on Friday to find items to get them through the storm which is thought will bring along heavy rainfall and winds 50-plus mph.
The most common items people set out to buy were batteries, flashlights and tape, while supermarket shelves were looking incredibly bare in the aisles that normally house bread and bottled drinks.
Damien McDonnell, Amanda Belcastro and Gianna McDonnell, 5, all of Nanuet, were a few of many in New City’s ShopRite early Friday evening. The three of them were looking for a little bit of “everything, just to hold us over for the weekend,” Damien McDonnell said. While he was out, McDonnell still isn’t sure if the storm is going to be as bad as many expect. Belcastro, however, said she thinks because of all the precautions being taken, such as shutting down public transportation in New York City, that Irene could live up to its destructive reputation.
“It’s never been like this before,” she said, adding that she volunteers for Nanuet Ambulance Corps, and they’re already asking for extra volunteers just to be on the safe side this weekend.
If the storm is big, Belcastro joked they’ll just put on some floaties and hope for the best. He also said that the one group that so far seems to benefitting from the hurricane is the stores.
“Look at how much money these places are making right now,” he said. “It’s pandaemonium in here.”
Indeed, every checkout line at ShopRite a little after 5 p.m. on Friday stretched back at least five people deep, many more than that. The parking lot was packed, the bread was rummaged through and large bottles of area nonexistent. Although even in pandaemonium some were taking the day lighthearted, as one woman said “Well, I’ve got all I need for the hurricane” as she held up an issue of People magazine flaunting pictures of Kim Kardashian’s wedding on the cover.
And still, New City ShopRite was a store of plentiful selection compared to Stop & Shop in Nanuet Friday around 6 p.m. The aisle with bottled water was so emptied out that as one woman started toward it, she saw what was left, gasped and said “There’s no point in even going down there.” The bread aisle was similarly deserted.
Melissa Garvey, of Stony Point, was there also to pick up some nonperishables, “stuff that I can store,” she said.
“It sounds pretty serious,” Garvey added. “They’re shutting down the MTA and evacuating people. I just want to be prepared.”
Nanuet’s David Carlsen, like McDonnell, doesn’t think the storm will be that bad this weekend. He was also at Stop & Shop Friday evening picking up items, like corn muffins and other snacks for his family. Carlsen ended up heading out because his wife, who gave birth just earlier this week, wanted to make sure they were stocked up just in case. If the storm isn’t bad, though, he said his family will be at church on Sunday, where his 11-year-old daughter sings.
Carlsen was also looking for flashlights and batteries, but wasn’t having much luck and borrowed a flashlight from a family member. Flashlights and batteries were light-producing gold around the county. Even Home Depot at the Palisades Mall sold out of flashlights and D-batteries, and that was by Thursday night.
Lisa Yanko, of Nyack, picked up four mini flashlights at Herb Lack Paints and Hardware in Nyack. She heard from a friend a lot of the bigger stores were already sold out of batteries and flashlights, “so I decided to check locally.” Yanko was in need 6-volt batteries, which the store didn’t have. A few flashlights were still in stock there, but the batteries needed to power them were sold out.
Yanko said she hopes it won’t be that bad Sunday, as her sister is supposed to fly into LaGuardia and land around 2 p.m. Still, if it does end up bad, Yanko is prepared for it.
“I spend the morning packing up the outdoor furniture and putting it inside, tying everything down that I could and cleaning out the gutters,” she said.
And then there are others who are very simply planing for the hurricane.
“I’ll probably light a candle and read a book,” said Paul Hadeler Sr., owner of Hadeler Hardware in Pearl River.
Hadeler said people started coming to his story specifically to stock up on items -- flashlights, batteries, tape, lamp oil -- on Thursday. And Hadeler thinks one group is primarily responsible for causing the “panic” amongst the public: the media. He said people see this nonstop coverage of the impending hurricane and get nervous because they don’t have “this thing, that thing and that other thing” at their home.
“Maybe a tree is going to fall on your house,” he said. “What are you going to do? Cut down all the trees near your house?”
He said in situations like the current one, where there is a report for a big storm coming in, he sells in one day what he might sell in two or three weeks of certain items. This can anger some customers, he said, who come looking for an item he doesn’t normally carry a lot of to begin with, such as lamp oil. Hadeler said his goods are delivered from Tennessee, and he has to have his order set by Tuesday, so he can’t go and change it to include more items if something sells out early or have something shipped overnight.
Still, Hadeler knows that not everyone is panicking about the storm.
“It’s amazing the panic that comes over some people,” he said. “It’s a select group of people that can’t do without the luxuries they’re used to.”
On Friday, Rockland County, like New York State on Thursday, declared a state of emergency because of Hurricane Irene and officials urged residents to prepare for the storm by stocking up on supplies in case of significant power outages. Additionally, officials urged Rocklanders to prepare their homes for the storm by putting away loose outdoor furniture and other objects.
At 7 p.m. today, emergency shelters throughout the county are set to open. However, residents who go to the shelters are urged to bring supplies they would need for a prolonged stay.