Preparing for the Storm

Published 9:12 pm Friday, September 5, 2008

Local merchants began to prepare for an increased flow of shoppers Friday as Gustav continued a slow progression toward the Gulf of Mexico.

Bob Brooks, owner of Brooks True Value Hardware in Andalusia, said he served more than 150 customers before lunch Friday, which is unusual for this time of the year.

“I think everyone is getting out to buy groceries and a lot of other items today rather than waiting until the weekend,” Brooks said. “There were a lot of people here at 7 a.m., which is very unusual. Most of them had a list of things to accomplish for the day.”

According to Brooks, customers have purchased several items related to home repair along with emergency items.

“People are buying roofing cement, tarpaulins and lots and lots of flashlights,” he said. “We have even repaired some flashlights for customers by replacing batteries and bulbs. We had about double our normal store traffic this morning.”

Brooks said customers are also stocking up on lanterns, lamp oil and gas cans from his hardware store in an effort to prepare for the possible impact of Gustav.

Earl Preachers, store manager for Andalusia’s Wal-Mart Supercenter, said extra supplies have been ordered in an effort to accommodate the anticipated surge of customers seeking emergency supplies.

“We have ordered extra lanterns, lamp oil and batteries,” he said. “We also ordered extra amounts of water, canned meats and other things that do not need be heated prior to eating.”

Preachers said a truck was expected to deliver several items for the store Friday afternoon and other orders would be placed as needed.

“We are trying to help people to get prepared,” he said. “You never have enough. We are trying to get on the front side of this now, but some supplies are difficult to obtain in a short period of time. Everyone else is trying to pull the same merchandise all throughout the country.”

Clay New, manager Winn Dixie in Andalusia, said his store will also be stocking up on non-perishable emergency items, but residents should purchase items like water, batteries and canned food before the storm’s predicted arrival Monday.

“We have some items on hand and we will be ordering more of certain items like batteries, water and snack items,” he said. “People should not wait until the last minute to purchase what they may need. We can try to get the supplies in, but at a point the trucks have to get off the road. You may need the items after the storm and the trucks will not be able to deliver those items.”

Jeremie Schaffer, assistant director of the Covington County Emergency Management Agency, said Friday that the National Weather Service predicted Gustav would make landfall in New Orleans, but pressure systems in the Gulf could cause minor variations.

“The storm is predicted to hit the coast of Louisiana,” Schaffer said. “It could shift slightly west or east depending on some pressure systems it could encounter. If it shifts west, then it could be a little better for us. If it shifts east, then it would be worse for us. Once it gets into the Gulf, then we will probably have a better idea. Right now it is a day-by-day wait.”

Schaffer said residents have begun to take a more proactive stance in hurricane preparedness and she encourages everyone to ensure all supplies are in place before the storm arrives.

“Some people purchased generators when we began our reports of Fay,” she said. “They remembered what was like to be without food or water. People are listening and it is a good thing. They are taking heed and listening to our instructions.”

For more information about emergency preparedness, visit the APDH at or the Covington County Red Cross at