Shoppers brave lines for needed goods

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Throngs of shoppers were out in force Tuesday looking for itemsas large as generators and as small as cans of tuna to help themmake it through the power outage and aftermath of HurricaneKatrina.

One by one, west Brookway Boulevard businesses started openingor offering their services to customers by 5 p.m. Gas stations,convenience stores and grocery stores began opening their doors bylate afternoon.

Wal-Mart Supercenter opened its doors around 5 p.m. Tuesday tocrowds of people that had been lined up since 3 p.m.

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Shirley Ratcliff, along with several friends and family members,was among the first shoppers hoping to get inside the retailer. Shesaid all she wanted was a few batteries, bread, oil for kerosenelamps and a few candles.

Wal-Mart officials were letting only a limited number ofshoppers into the store at a time and only into certain areas ofthe store. All of the store’s perishable items were covered up andwere not available for sale. A loudspeaker announcement said allthe store’s cooler items were condemned and not for sale.

Food Center opened its doors early Tuesday afternoon to crowdsof people, thanks to a backup generator, and by late Tuesdayafternoon seemed to be operating on full electrical power.

Area gas stations were eyed by many, as evidenced by the longlines of cars waiting at each of the boulevard’s gas stations lateTuesday afternoon. Brookhaven police officers were at most of thestations directing traffic and keeping confrontations to aminimum.

Home Depot continued to be a hot spot Tuesday morning and lateinto Tuesday evening with the expected arrival of 200 gas-poweredgenerators.

Greg Newman, store manager, said he expected the generators lateTuesday afternoon. Shoppers began lining up at the store before6:30 a.m.

Several hundred people were sitting inside the store in amakeshift line of seats, waiting for a chance to buy one of the5,550 watt generators at a price of $699 each.

Allen Thompson, who lives in the Loyd Star community, claimedthe coveted first chair in line. He had been at the store since6:30 Tuesday morning, he said. He hoped to be able to purchase agenerator to power his refrigerator and freezer.

Several out-of-town shoppers came to Home Depot just becausethey heard the store would have generators. Charlie Yawn, aGonzales, La., resident who, until recently, lived in McComb, saidhe came all the way to Brookhaven in search of a generator. He saidhe hoped to take one back to power refrigerators and other items athome.

Customers at the front of the would not be identified by name,preferring instead to be referred to by number, such as “No. 1.”Charles McClendon Jr. was No. 5, and his father, Charles McClendonSr., was No. 6 The McClendons live in the Barlow community nearHazlehurst.

Home Depot provided many of those waiting in line with water andsnacks during the long wait. Several shoppers expressed frustrationthat the store did not issue numbers to shoppers to allow them toleave and come back or leave their place in line.

Melvin Smith had the unenviable position of being last in lineat 3 p.m. Smith, of Pike County, had lost his home in McComb andwas staying with friends. He said he hoped to purchase a generatorto help keep the refrigerator and freezer going.

Reggie Maxwell, sitting next to Smith, said he lived in theMonticello area in Lawrence County. He hoped to purchase agenerator, but most of all he said he just wanted something to eatand to be able to go the bathroom without losing his place inline.