Buffalo on Monday braced for Hurricane Sandy – or at least the storm’s potentially powerful remnants – as forecasters warned that strong gusts combined with the soaking rain would likely bring down trees and knock out power to thousands.
As the winds began to pick up Monday afternoon, Diane Hirgstetter loaded up on bottled water, fixings for soup and treats for her dog at Wegmans on Amherst Street – her second trip to the market since the weekend when warnings began to turn dire.
“I’ve lived in Buffalo for 56 years,” she said. “I do take heed.”
And if the storm doesn’t hit, she said, she won’t feel silly.
“You eat it up anyways,” she said.
Aisle 16A was bustling with activity as workers wheeled in pallet after pallet of bottled water and shoppers loaded up their carts. The Wegmans store had to limit some brand-name bottled water to one 24-pack per customer as a way to discourage small-store owners from stocking up along with other customers.
Kate Holzemer, a violist with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, filled her shopping cart with eight gallon-size jugs of water. “I just don’t like being thirsty,” she explained.
She wasn’t terribly worried about the storm. “I would say I’m bracing for an inconvenient week,” Holzemer said.
Julio Moreno, a student at ECC who works at Dug’s Dive restaurant on the waterfront, had water, milk and some chips in his cart. But he left the most room for at least two cases of beer, and maybe some craft beer, as well.
“In these situations,” he said, “I tend to gather up the troops.”
Among those picking up supplies Monday was Buffalo Sabre Nathan Gerbe, who bought a case of water, whole wheat bread, organic sandwich meat and berries. “Just some fruits, vegetables and liquids,” he said. He added that he already had another case of water at home. “I’m fine,” he said.
Buffalo State College seniors Melanie Reinhardt and Sarah Wintle bought soups, tofu and ingredients for a cheese-covered French onion soup.
They also bought some candles, in case the power went out, even though they were warned that they can be hazardous.
“Lanterns are like $40,” Reinhardt said, as Wintle added, “We’re poor college kids.”
Home improvement stores across Western New York were busy in the hours before the storm, as well. Several stores sold out of power generators.
The Home Depot in Buffalo was “totally sold out” of generators Monday, after getting 30 in on Saturday, a representative said.
The store also was out of “D” batteries, the most commonly used type for standard flashlights. The representative said the chain’s other local stores were in similar predicaments.
Lowe’s on Niagara Falls Boulevard in Amherst was out of generators Monday morning, after getting a shipment of 20 just a few hours earlier. Most of them had been prepaid and reserved on Sunday.
Valu Home Centers, which has 41 stores in upstate New York and northwestern Pennsylvania, no longer carries generators but has been swamped with demand for other products, including batteries, gas cans, flashlights, tarps and duct tape.
“Demand has been way up, and stores have been really busy, but we’re doing really well,” said spokesman Doug Wasiura. “We’re reordering, making sure all of our stores are full, but most of our stores are pretty well stocked.”
Hector’s Hardware, which has 10 stores in the area, is also sold out of generators. A representative, who was busy with customers, said they can’t get generators anywhere in the state to restock. The nearest available generators, she said, are in Nevada.
Local Red Cross officials had potential shelter locations on standby and were prepared to publicize the addresses if they were needed, said spokesman Jay Bonafede.
He also encouraged people to download the American Red Cross’ free hurricane and first aid apps for smartphones and tablets.
The apps include safety tips for before, during and after a hurricane hits, including information on how long food stays safe in a refrigerator when the power is out. There are even functions to turn cellphones into flashlights and strobe lights
The City of Buffalo urged residents to take caution and asked homeowners with sewer grates in front of their homes to rake or shovel away fallen leaves that may be blocking them.
State police urged drivers to take extra caution if they have to go out during the storm. They encouraged drivers to be especially careful when approaching standing water in the roadway and advised against using cruise control in bad weather because it can slow down brake response.