South Florida stores order drinking water, hurricane supplies as jittery locals empty shelves

South Floridians swarmed local stores Monday, emptying shelves of drinking water and other supplies as Hurricane Irma strengthened to a Category 4.

If South Florida remains in Irma’s forecast cone, the region likely won’t begin feeling its effects until Friday, according to models from the National Hurricane Center. That leaves plenty of restocking time for stores like Sunset Harbor Publix, where a manager told shoppers supplies would be replenished on Tuesday.

Still, with Hurricane Andrew’s 25th anniversary just a few weeks behind them and Hurricane Harvey’s Texas devastation fresh on their minds, South Floridians took advantage of the Labor Day holiday to hit groceries including Milam’s in Coconut Grove, where a sign beneath the shelf that usually contains drinking water read, “additional hurricane supplies are delivering sometime tomorrow morning.”

Drinking water was also sold out at the Walmart Supercenter at 3200 NW 79th Street; Walmart’s public relations spokesman said the company had decided not to comment on storm supplies Monday, saying “they are focused primarily on ensuring smooth operations and want to avoid a rush on stores.”

On social media, the approaching storm was a popular topic, drawing posts from jittery residents in the Caribbean and U.S., and government entities including the Florida Attorney General (Report #PriceGouging, 1-866-966-7226). Miami-Dade County Emergency Management turned to Twitter to urge residents to stock emergency kits. DJ EM of the Netherlands Antilles tweeted, “Make sure ya’ll get cash cause ATM’s will be out of order.”

Douglas Hanks Jr., Joey Flechas and Rick Hirsch contributed to this report.