The Florida West Coast’s temporary sigh of relief ended with forecasters projecting a possible shift of Hurricane Irma to the west with a potential path up the center of the state. That renewed a rush on supplies and preparations in Manatee County on Friday.
Snead Island resident Joe Falvella survived Hurricane Andrew in 1995 when he was living outside of Miami, but barely.
“I had to hang onto a ski rope for 5 hours,” he said. “I’m not doing that again.”
Falvella was boarding up his home on Friday and getting ready to travel inland to get out of the evacuation zone.
“We were planning on doing this anyway,” he said. “I was 23 when Andrew hit us and I’ve learned the only important things in life are those around you.”
Word soon got out that 84 Lumber at the intersection of 15th Street East and U.S. 301 had two trucks of plywood available Friday morning and lines began forming an hour before the store opened at 7 a.m. and soon stretched out for more than a mile.
“We’ve been seeing this going on since Tuesday but nothing like today,” said Brad Prescott, an 84 Lumber employee keeping line cutters from getting into the store’s entrance.
And there were many who tried. The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office showed up in the morning to create an orderly line but that didn’t stop some from trying.
Prescott said an estimated 17,000 boards have flown out of the store this week, “But this is it today. We won’t be open tomorrow.”
Sid Porkey and his wife sat in their vehicle in line for two-and-a-half hours. They have hurricane shutters on their Ellenton home but a few years ago replaced their gutters and the contractor failed to place them out of the way of where their shutters needed to be bolted to the wall.
“We are OK with everything else as far as supplies and we thought we were OK with being able to shutter up,” Porkey said. “Until we tried. My wife found out this place had lumber on her cellphone and here we are kind of being forced into doing this at the last minute.”
A few cars behind sat Chad Ellis from Sarasota. Ellis said the recent forecast shifting the storm to the west got him out Friday looking for plywood.
“When they moved the cone a little to the west, that’s when I was like, ‘All right, got to do something.’ ”
Meghin Gallagher sat in line for almost 3 hours and was in good spirits as her vehicle got closer to the store.
“For the most part it’s been pretty peaceful, but there were a few people who tried to cut into line,” she said. “We were here yesterday, too, and they did a really good job. They are really organized so they are really helping things. We are just trying to board up our houses and keep them safe.”
Heather Taylor was in line for a similar amount of time with her two young – and fairly patient – children.
“We’re just praying it’s not going to hit us,” she said.
The shift put Point Pleasant resident Charles Wowak into action as well. Wowak was busy Friday morning boarding up his home.
“It might go up the middle now so I just want to be prepared,” he said. “I wasn’t going to do anything if it had stayed east, but that may not be the case now.”