Storm-weary residents stock up on supplies

Published 5:25 pm Friday, August 27, 2021

Local retailers said they have worked feverishly since Thursday to keep shelves stocked as Southwest Louisiana residents purchase essential supplies in anticipation for Hurricane Ida’s landfall, which is anticipated for Sunday as a possible Category 3 or 4 storm.

At the Kroger grocery store on Country Club Road, Assistant Manager Luis Noyola described Thursday as chaotic, with customers stocking up on water, bread, beer, liquor, dry ice, batteries, flashlights and propane. Two truckloads, or roughly 60 pallets of water, were sold Thursday. Each pallet contains more than 60 24-pack cases of water, he said.

“(Customers) were just taking 10 (cases) at a time,” Noyola said. “We had to limit them to two. That’s where the frustration comes in, but we understand and we’re trying to accommodate them.”

The stress the region continues to feel one year after the Category 4 Hurricane Laura’s devastating landfall has many residents in panic mode for Hurricane Ida, Noyola said.

“People are on edge,” he said. “I understand what Southwest Louisiana has been through. Don’t get me wrong — some customers have been wonderful, but others who are scared have been hostile toward us.”

Noyola said Kroger’s fuel center ran out of gasoline around 6 p.m. Thursday but was restocked within the hour.

Jennifer Johnson, assistant store manager at Lowe’s Home Improvement on Derek Drive, said the store ran out of generators and water Thursday and was forced to bring in a second emergency truckload. The store did $353,000 in sales Thursday, more than triple the $100,000 worth of sales on an average day, Johnson said.

“It was pretty busy,” she said.

Friday’s sales of generators and other essential supplies, like tarps, gasoline cans and lumber, had slowed as forecast models showed Hurricane Ida shifting further east.

Jeremy Stine, marketing director of Stine Lumber, said residents are buying the “usual suspects,” such as generators, tarps, plywood and batteries. One hot-ticket item is window air conditioners.

One year removed from Hurricane Laura, Stine said preparing for Hurricane Ida’s potential impact feels like another day at the office. He said executive team meetings are held daily, and a  60-page checklist is discussed.

“Yes, we’re tired, but it’s almost like riding a bike,” he said. “We know what to do and how to do it. We don’t want to see this happening, but this is what we’re here for.”

Stine said inventory is spread out evenly around the 11 locations in Louisiana. As Ida moves closer to the Gulf Coast, products will be shifted to stores that are expected to be impacted the most. Stine mentioned stores in Broussard, located just over an hour east of Lake Charles, and in Walker, more than two hours east of Lake Charles.

Stine said each store has two teams that can help an impacted store in an outlying location reopen quickly in Ida’s immediate aftermath, especially if some employees remain evacuated..

“That goes for every location,” he said.