While the path of Hurricane Matthew is still uncertain, many area businesses were already feeling the effects of the storm on Wednesday. All across the city residents were stocking up on food essentials and filling their car with gas.
April Blake, a customer service representative from Home Depot on Abercorn Street, said that employees were advising customers to get all of the essentials including tarps, flashlights, gas cans and cleaning supplies.
“There’s definitely a heightened concern this time compared to (Hermine),” Blake said. “That time it was mostly flashlights, batteries and that type of thing; this time it’s all generators.”
The southside store along with the Victory Drive, Pooler and Bluffton locations were completely out of generators around 10 a.m. Wednesday. Blake said it was possible that they would receive another shipment later Wednesday afternoon.
In midtown, Kroger on Mall Boulevard was a little busier than usual for a Wednesday, but lots of shoppers didn’t seem too concerned with the impending storm. Many were doing routine shopping, stocking up on pumpkins and diet soda. Shelves were still stocked with plenty of bread, milk and canned goods.
Other shoppers were taking precautions, though. Regina Eason was heading in to the store to buy water and a few other essentials around noon. She and her mother were heading to a family member’s house in Rincon later in the day.
“My aunt has a big house so we’re all going there. We’re going to have a big slumber party and try to make the best of it,” she said.
Having been through Hurricane Floyd in 1999 Eason said she was a little more concerned about Hurricane Matthew and had prepped earlier in the day by freezing water bottles and filling the bathtub with water.
“I think this one might get us. I just hope it doesn’t take everything like Hurricane Katrina... I’ll just make sure that I’ve got my pictures with me, I don’t care about anything else but my pictures.”
Like many others, Eason was heading to fill up her gas tank after getting groceries. Nearly all of the gas stations around the midtown area were experiencing lines with three to four cars per pump.
Although the pumps were experiencing lines, Ryan Chandler, vice president of business development at Colonial Group Inc., said there is no reason to panic at the pumps.
“Colonial’s fuel supply is well-positioned to meet the increased demand associated with residents’ preparation for Hurricane Matthew. We expect no supply outages, and residents can be reassured there is fuel available for their own preparations,” Chandler said.
While Colonial is making preparations, Chandler said their terminals operate 24 hours a day and plan to operate on a normal schedule at least through Thursday.
“Should it become necessary to close our terminals, Colonial has contingency plans in place to quickly reopen after the storm has passed.”
Nearby at the Port of Savannah, effective at 6 p.m. Wednesday the Coast Guard had set port condition X-ray for the port due to the expectation of sustained gale force winds of 39 mph and gusts up to 54 mph generated by Matthew. The port remained open and operational, but the Coast Guard advised small crafts to seek safe harbor. Larger ships were advised to seek alternate routes if possible.
Some area residents weren’t taking the storm all that seriously yet, but they were keeping area liquor stores busy with lots of shoppers buying spirits.
“I’ve got gin and bourbon for my husband,” said Ardsley Park resident Sheree Gloss, who had already gassed up her car and made a stop at the grocery store. Gloss said she thinks the storm reports are a little hyped up, but she’d rather be safe than sorry.
“Last time (with Hermine) everything closed, so if that happens this time I’ve got my gin and I’ll be ready.”
Gloss said she didn’t lose power at her Ardsley Park residence during Hermine, but it’s likely that Matthew could pack more of a punch than September’s storm. Representatives from Georgia Power said they are securing additional resources and doing advance work on logistics to ensure crews will have the support needed for restoration work.
“We continue to prepare, both locally, in the Savannah area, as well as statewide, so as to be able to respond to restore power as quickly and safely as possible if the storm causes damage,” said Georgia Power spokesman John Kraft.
“…Georgia Power crews from other parts of the state, from other Southern Company operating companies, contractors and from utilities in the Mutual Assistance Network will be available based on damage from the storm.”
Coming off Factor’s Walk, Ohio-resident Sharon Vipperman and a group of friends in town to celebrate a 50th anniversary said they were cutting their trip short by a few days, leaving this morning instead of Sunday, mostly due to the possibility of traffic, not the weather.
“The weather doesn’t really bother us,” she said.
“We were hoping to take a river boat cruise, but I’m sure we’ll be back to Savannah.”
Many business owners on River Street said the consensus among customers were much like the group from Ohio, and people were checking out of hotels and leaving town earlier than originally planned. Shop owners however, are playing it by ear.
Working the Old Town Trolley booth on River Street, Tomi Hutton said she always has extra water and food on hand after living in Key West, Fla., for six years. And while foot traffic was down a little, trolleys were still operating on a normal schedule with full loads of customers.
“Tours are still going out; the River Boat is still going out. Personally, I’m not worried,” Hutton said.
“A lot of people have already left town. I’ve talked with guests from Hilton Head and they’re all getting flights out tomorrow and changing plans.”
Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport issued a travel advisory stating they were continuing to monitor Matthew’s movement and delays and cancellations were possible, but encouraged travelers to check with airlines for the latest alerts concerning air travel.
A little farther west on River Street at The Cinnamon Bear Country Store, owner Lynne Snaid said she planned to be closed Thursday, but would open if they weather wasn’t bad. The schedule for the rest of the week is contingent on the weather.
“I’m not sure at this point. Business has definitely been slower and I think a lot of people have moved out,” Snaid said.
Snaid also evacuated for Hurricane Floyd and it took her nearly 17 hours to get to Atlanta. This time she’s already alerted her Atlanta family she might be paying them a visit this weekend.
“I think they’re a little but more equipped now... I think people are more concerned now, I definitely think so. But there’s still people shopping, but a lot of people who have come in said they’re clearing out today.”