"I Feel Helpless": Bottled Water, Gas Shortages Reported As Floridians Brace For Hurricane Dorian

By now, this has become a familiar scene for millions of Americans, particularly those living in the southeastern states of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas, as well as Texas and Louisiana, all of which have been rocked by major hurricanes in recent years. With Hurricane Dorian barreling toward Florida, expected to make landfall as a powerful Category 4 hurricane, with 130 mph winds, this weekend.

According to WSJ, Floridians could begin feeling the impact of the storm as soon as Saturday. The NHC said Thursday that the storm is a Category 1 hurricane with sustained winds of 85 mph, moving northwest over the Atlantic Ocean. Though it's too early to say exactly where it will make landfall, projections suggest it will hit the northwestern Bahamas before moving on to central and southern Florida. 

In Orange County, residents have already begun filling up sandbags at a local park.

The Bahamas and Florida could be under a hurricane watch as soon as Thursday evening. But Fla. Gov. Ron DeSantis has already declared a state of emergency that has been expanded to 67 counties, and secured promises of assistance from President Trump.

"The message I think right now is that all Floridians really need to monitor Hurricane Dorian and make necessary preparations," said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at a news conference Thursday morning. "This is a track that has a significant amount of uncertainty."

The entire East Coast of Florida is within the potential travel path of the storm, yet no evacuation orders have been issued yet. But the rush to stock up had already brought on fuel shortages in the Cape Canaveral area.

Those who have decided to remain in the area over the weekend are stocking up on essentials: Gasoline, packaged food, bottled water, batteries and other essentials.

The rush for supplies has left store shelves empty across Central Florida, with supplies of bottled water already dwindling, as the powerful, slow-moving storm has the potential to bring hurricane force winds and rain well inland from the coast.

One reporter quipped that "the water frenzy is real" in Tampa, along with a video of customers standing in a lengthy check-out line with carts filled with bottled water.

As has become a tradition at Publix, a grocery store chain prominent across Florida, customers have been buying up 'hurricane cakes'.

Shoppers appeared to be reacting to DeSantis, who urged all Floridians to "have a plan" and start making "the necessary preparations" right now.

Meanwhile, the International Space Station has published images of the storm captured by its cameras.

Speaking to the Orlando Sentinel, Orlando resident Nicholas Boyd said during the last storm, the art teacher had put off stocking up on supplies a little too long,

"Last time, I put it off a little too long, and there was none left," the 35-year-old Boyd said, adding that he wanted to be "a little more proactive" this time around. And he isn't alone: Home Depot said it had already sent some 160 truckloads of various products to stores in Florida so far.

"We have five distribution centers in the Southeast working to get more materials to stores as quickly as they can," a spokesperson said, adding that the chain is "prioritizing those in-demand items like generators, batteries, water and plywood."

Reporting from a Publix in Baldwin Park, the Orlando Sentinel noted that shelves of water were left largely empty, and employee were offering customers bottles of Fiji water instead of the large multi-gallon jugs they were looking for.

"We like to get the 5-gallon jugs because we have a dispenser at home, but they’re out of those," said 37-year-old Orlando resident Shannon Taylor, a professor at the University of Central Florida’s college of business. "So instead I went into the aisle with the bottled water, and they didn’t have any, but right when I was walking out of there, one of the Publix employees came with a cart of a few extra boxes of Fiji."

After several powerful hurricanes hammered Florida in recent years, residents have no illusions about what Dorian's impact could be. "If it makes landfall as  Category 3 or 4 hurricane, that's a big deal," said University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy. "A lot of people are going to be affected. A lot of insurance claims," he told the AP.

Another resident who spoke with the AP described feeling "helpless" because of the forecast.

"I feel helpless because the whole coast is threatened," said Tiffany Miranda of Miami Springs. "What’s the use of going all the way to Georgia if it can land there?"

"You never know with these hurricanes. It could be good, it could be bad. You just have to be prepared," she said.

As of early Thursday afternoon, Dorian was situated about 220 miles northwest of San Juan, and was traveling at about 13 mph with winds of about 85 mph.