Minutes after the Midtown Tampa Whole Foods opened its doors Tuesday morning ahead of the coming storm, letting in crowd of anxious shoppers, Miguel Sanchez already had his car trunk and backseat filled with packed brown paper sacks.
“I’m full up,” said Sanchez, who was delivering groceries for Amazon and busy enough with pre-Idalia orders that he planned to work into the evening — getting him home before the worst of the weather.
But Tuesday morning, Sanchez was looking up at blue skies. “The calm before the storm,” he said.
Across Tampa Bay, residents spent Tuesday last-minute stressing, prepping and bracing for what Hurricane Idalia would bring.
The Ace Hardware in South Pasadena had a long line all morning. The store was out of gas cans, D batteries, flashlights — and sold the last lantern just before 10 a.m.
“People are worried. This is unusual, even for a hurricane,” said cashier Tina Hayes, 57. Some might be more concerned because of Hurricane Ian’s destruction last year, she said.
The mayor of Gulfport, Sam Henderson, stopped in for screws and drill bits to board his windows. “Of course I’m worried, but I’m not leaving,” he said. He planned to ride out the storm with four family members and four dogs.
Some residents said Tuesday they were less worried about the storm hitting here than they were about losing power.
In Tampa, Mary Cantonis was glad for two things: their generator worked, and her neighborhood wasn’t required to evacuate. “Which makes us feel less crazy,” she said.
Cantonis, who stopped at Whole Foods early for staples and comfort food — doughnuts, maybe — said she worried that “a lot of people aren’t taking it as seriously as they should.” Her sister, who lives on the beach, boarded up last time a storm threatened, but not this time.
“I think there’s that mentality that it’s not going to happen here,” she said.
Across the bay, usually festive Gulfport was shuttered Tuesday. Even the popular bar O’Maddy’s was closed because it is in evacuation Zone A. Locals kept stopping by, reading the sign, and asking, “So where’s the party?”
In Tampa, a Circle K convenience store on Howard Avenue looked like a parking lot with all the cars gassing up. Just across the street, the Radiant station was empty, with “OUT OF GAS” signs taped to the pumps and fluttering in the wind.
Down the street at Le Segunda Bakery, long loaves of Cuban bread in skinny paper envelopes were going fast. General manager Shanesa Bacon said she expected to sell plenty of medianoche and Cuban sandwiches as the day wore on. The store would close at 3 p.m., in plenty of time for employees to get home.
“The power already flickered, and it’s not even raining yet,” she said.
At a Dale Mabry Highway Home Depot, Jim Evangelista’s shopping cart looked deceptively like he was making the typical Saturday morning purchases: A green garden hose and giant bags of soil. But he planned for those bags to do double duty as sandbags for the storm, he said.
Was he worried? “I’m worried enough,” said Evangelista, who spent the day before prepping his house in Crystal River against the storm. “I’m worried about the storm surge and the water.”
At the Target next door, where employees were filling shelves with Halloween candy, Quintin Moultrie pushed a cart full of purchases for his delivery business.
“People are hunkering down, trying to get the last-minute hurricane supplies, batteries, dry goods, snacks for the kiddos,” he said. “I got a lot of calls yesterday — the volume was so high I couldn’t fulfill some orders.”
At the South Pasadena Ace Hardware, Victoria Sparks, 77, said she hadn’t grilled in decades. But Tuesday morning, she stopped by the store to buy a charcoal grill, “just in case.” Relatives keep texting her to leave, but she lined her home with sandbags and filled the back of her SUV with more to give to neighbors.
“We’re all in this together,” she said.
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