With memories of the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria still fresh in the minds of US consumers, residents of South and North Carolina are taking zero chances as Hurricane Florence - now a Category 4 storm - barrels toward the eastern seaboard. According to local media reports, store shelves have been cleared of vital supplies like bottled water and food as anxious southerners brace for the worst-case scenario.
Shelves at Wal-Marts in North Carolina and South Carolina had been cleared out by Sunday evening, forcing the stores to frantically restock shelves as residents loaded up on everything from water to plywood to generators, per WGN9. Flashlights and batteries also flew off the shelves.
Photos of empty store shelves in South Carolina were circulating on social media, the State newspaper reported.
The pictures of vacant grocery store aisles are flooding social media. They show the places in supermarkets that are normally filled with pallets of bottled water and bread, among other supplies. They are being purchased in preparation for Florence, which is expected to be a "dangerous major hurricane," according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster warned residents to prepare for the worst-case scenario. At a Sunday news conference, McMaster said "presume that a major hurricane is going to hit South Carolina. Be prepared. Be ready." North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper also urged residents in vulnerable areas to be prepared, noting that the storm is expected to generate massive waves and destructive winds. Currently, the storm winds have clocked in at 115 mph.
On social media, one user compared the pre-hurricane run to preparations for a "zombie apocalypse."
#NorthCarolina: #Grocery store is crazy packed right now with everyone prepping for #Hurricane #Florence you'd think there was a zombie apocalypse happening #cstore #SuperMarkets #DollarStores #Foodlion #GetTheApp #Walmart #Kroger Credit pic @AWxNYC pic.twitter.com/3bx8noYstP— C-Store News (@CStoreNews_) September 9, 2018
The shelves of every Walmart in the Carolinas currently. pic.twitter.com/By9esDsbXR— Marcus (@superunknown111) September 9, 2018
And so it begins...no water at Walmart 😱 #florence #hurricane #nobottledwater #nowater #wheresjimcantore #goawayflorence #hurricaneflorence #eastcoastprepares #eastcoast #andsoitbegins pic.twitter.com/J6lzn0XCac— michelle fargo (@mafargo) September 9, 2018
While one woman tweeted about stocking up on yoga pants and wine.
Went to Walmart today to stock up on supplies for #Florence, they had already run out of water hours before. I grabbed all other #essentials I could think of, including yoga pants and wine. At least I'll be comfy, happy, and tipsy.— The struggle is real (@torneen) September 9, 2018
If National Hurricane Center projections prove correct, the storm could be most severe to strike North Carolina since Hurricane Fran in 1996.
The NHC warned late Monday morning that "life threatening" storm surges could strike coastal areas of North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia...
...With hurricane-force winds expected to begin battering coastal areas beginning late Wednesday night before the storm makes landfall on Thursday (that is, barring some last-minute shift in the storm's trajectory).
9/10 11 AM EDT: The earliest reasonable time that tropical-storm-force winds will reach the coast of the Carolinas is Wednesday night, but the most likely time is Thursday morning. #Florence https://t.co/tW4KeGdBFb pic.twitter.com/kzKpHv9o6J— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) September 10, 2018
NEW: Florence is now a category 4 hurricane. Data from a NOAA Hurricane Hunter indicate that Florence has continued to rapidly strengthen and has maximum sustained winds near 130 mph (195 km/h) and a minimum central pressure of 946 mb (27.93 inches) https://t.co/tW4KeGdBFb pic.twitter.com/wfLt6fJPl2— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) September 10, 2018
Meanwhile, insurance stocks tumbled on Monday with shares of AIG, Travelers and other non-life insurerers moving lower. According to Wells Fargo Securities analyst Elyse Greenspan, insured losses could surpass $20 billion - "a manageable level for the industry" - if Florence makes landfall in the Carolinas. Here's an overview of individual insurers' exposure, courtesy of Bloomberg.
- Primary companies with the largest exposure to homeowners’ include State Farm, USAA, Allstate, Nationwide and Travelers
- Companies with the highest market share in personal auto include: State Farm, Berkshire Hathaway, Allstate, USAA and Progressive
- Those with the greatest exposure to commercial- property exposed lines include Liberty Mutual, Travelers, CNA, Nationwide and AIG
- Reinsurers include Aspen, AXIS Capital, Everest Re, RenaissanceRe, and XL Group
Meanwhile, shares of Generac Holdings Inc, building materials maker Owens Corning and roofing-supplies company Beacon Roofing Supply Inc rallied and retailers like Lowe's and Home Depot also climbed.
While the East Coast braces for landfall, meteorologists warn that this could only be the beginning of the region's troubles during this year's hurricane season. As the National Hurricane Center warned this morning, there are three hurricanes and a tropical storm already fully-formed over the Atlantic, while a tropical depression is presently forming over the northwest Caribbean.
A tropical depression could form later this week when a trough currently over the NW Caribbean Sea moves over the western Gulf of Mexico. The Atlantic tropics are extremely busy now with Hurricanes #Florence, #Isaac, #Helene & 1 other disturbance. More: https://t.co/tW4KeGdBFb pic.twitter.com/poEZmmwKTE— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) September 10, 2018
As the timetable for the storm's impact continues to creep forward, North Carolina officials ordered residents to evacuate from the state’s Outer Banks barrier islands beginning on Monday ahead of Hurricane Florence, Reuters reported.