Local Florence memories spur early Dorian preparation

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Plus, what are the last-minute things to remember before the storm arrives?

The lessons of Hurricane Florence were on everyone’s minds at the Leland Piggly Wiggly Tuesday.

With Hurricane Dorian’s expected local impacts still two days out, shoppers loaded their carts with water, canned goods and batteries. Cashiers bid customers “stay safe” as they bagged groceries.

Manager Bobby Dorsch said staff jumped to action as soon as it started looking like Dorian would come. The store contacted vendors early, and as a result hasn’t run into the supply shortages that were sometimes an issue last year.

“We got a lot of experience from last year,” he said. “We started getting ahead of it a lot faster.”

Almost exactly a year after Hurricane Florence struck Southeastern North Carolina, locals wasted no time preparing for Dorian.

New Hanover County Emergency Management director Steven Still said the recency of Florence has certainly impacted the region’s residents. He’s even referred to Dorian as Florence a few times, simply because it’s still so present.

Those fresh memories have caused people to spring into action earlier, rather than give into complacency cultivated by a few quieter weather years before Florence, he said.

“I think people have a heightened sense of awareness of the impacts,” he said. “Prolonged power outages, no access to sanitary services – people remember that.”

Diane Watson of Leland stopped by the grocery store Tuesday to stock up on hurricane snacks. The store is walking distance from the mobile home where she lives with her mother and daughter — a home where she’s weathered hurricanes for more than 20 years.

Last year, Florence knocked a hole in her roof that is still not repaired.

But Watson planned to hunker down at home during Dorian, her roof secured with tarps.

“If you have faith you’re going to be OK, you’re going to be OK,” she said. “I just hope everyone else is really prepared.”

Dorsch said like last year, he’ll keep the Piggly Wiggly open as long as possible. He anticipates closing Thursday to give employees time to get home over the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge (the bridge closes once winds reach 35 mph).

“We’re just trying to do everything we can for the community,” he said. “It’s a time to pull together, not to pull apart.”

If you are still preparing for Dorian, here’s a few things you can do in the final hours before the storm arrives:

Seal important documents in zip plastic bags and place in a protected and dry place.
Set the refrigerator to its coldest setting in anticipation of the power failing.
Fill the bathtub. It may be your main supply of water.
Stock heavy-duty garbage bags for post-storm home and yard cleanup.
Check flashlight and radio batteries and have extras on hand.
Charge rechargeable cellphones, drills, power screwdrivers, flashlights, lanterns and batteries.
Make sure you have enough toilet paper to last until you can safely get to the store again.
If you plan to leave, start packing. Don’t wait until the storm is almost here to get on the road.
Don’t be misled by landfall predictions. Strong winds could arrive hours before official landfall and stretch many miles away from the eye.
Move furniture away from windows or cover with plastic.

Reporter Hunter Ingram can be reached at 910-343-2327 or Hunter.Ingram@StarNewsOnline.com.