Elsa preps: Last-minute shoppers crowd Tampa Bay stores ahead of storm

8 On Your Side

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Virgil Taylor could only shrug at the price of plywood, as he loaded a couple of sheets onto a cart.

His focus was beating Elsa to the roof deck of the Tangra Nightclub where he said a pricey television was in her path.

“I was getting this for $14. Now it’s $47. So, it’s way up there,” Taylor said. But the cost for this is worth the cost for that monitor.”

Several aisles away, new stock of generators arrived at the Tampa Home Depot where Taylor was shopping, but the machines were not expected to last long.

Flashlights and batteries were also selling fast, along with pumps and of course plywood.

Buying is only step one for Sebastian Leon, a sub-contractor assigned to securing an open building before the storm hits.

“I’m a little scared that we won’t be able to finish it on time because the weather’s not helping us,” Leon said. “It’s stopped raining, then it starts raining every hour or so.”

The Grace brothers hit a pair of hardware stores hoping to gather the goods to protect their Tampa business.

PlayNation has already been forced to play in the mud.

“Got water up to here,” Adam Grace explained, pointing to a cinder block near the foundation of the business.

The last few days of rain flowed through a door threatening to waterlog wooden playground equipment.

While Adam rolled in a new generator, his brother Tim bought some pumps that will be aimed at redirecting the water that falls this week.

“I’m not super panicky about these storms,” Tim Grace said. “I know what water can do. That’s my biggest fear. I’m not worried about the wind. I’m not worried about any of that. I’m just worried about the water.”

As the drips from a downspout turn into rushing water in the coming hours, the Graces will watch from home and hope their network of pumps and generator can keep up with Elsa

“We’ve got cameras on the inside, so we’ll be able to monitor where the water’s coming in,” Adam Grace said. “And if it does, we’ll come up here.”

For Marjorie Johnson, Irma proved to be a pricey reminder of what can happen if you’re not prepared.

That bad weather memory motivated Johnson to buy a gas grill as a backup plan after her family lost power during the 2017 hurricane season.

“Six days. All our food went bad. This time I can cook,” she said. “Stop having to worry about using wood or charcoal. I got propane fast. Get it down.”

There are several storm-related items you may need that were hit by pandemic-related inflation.

Plywood is up by about 40 percent, gas by about a dollar a gallon, and the demand for groceries has climbed by 11 percent during the past year.

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