Empty water shelves at a West Columbia Walmart on Thursday. (Photo by Noah Watson)

As Hurricane Ian made its way to the Midlands, grocery stores were busier than usual.  

Water and non-perishable foods were at the top of the hurricane safety checklist for shoppers afraid of being without both, according to hurricanesafety.org. 

“Our shelf stays blown out,” Hope Warren, manager at KJ’s Market in West Columbia, said of the store’s water supply earlier this week. “My co-manager told me, ‘When you order (water), go crazy.’” 

Warren said the store brought in more than six pallets of water bottles in cases. She said it has been difficult to maintain stocked shelves because water sells so quickly.

“People have already chopped into it,” said Warren of the store’s restocked shelves.

The market positioned backup cases near the rear of the store. Warren said she made sure to have extra on hand if needed and was still waiting on two more brands to come in.

Each week, KJ’s Market puts items on sale near the front of the store. This week, Warren put non-perishables, such as chips and canned food, up front. 

At the intersection of Elmwood and Main Street sits Uncle Willie’s Grocery Store, a mom and pop shop. Owner Christa Williams said she ordered ready-to-eat items for customers for the stormy weekend. Williams said her store focuses on being healthy. 

“Even though we may be stuck at home, there are still healthier options that people can eat other than Lay’s potato chips and things like that,” Williams said. 

Uncle Willie’s has a variety of dried green beans, okra chips, sweet potato butter spread and muscadine grape juice.

“We’re trying to make sure people have what they need to stay healthy throughout any disaster,” Williams said. 

In Cayce, Food Lion manager Vivian Reed said the store ordered extra cleaning supplies because people like to clean during times when they can stay inside.

Reed said the store also ordered extra milk, water and bread. She said milk and water are selling the quickest. 

The demand for milk and water also was evident at the Publix on Gervais Street in Columbia. Its stock was low Wednesday night, and every checkout lane stretched to the main walkway.

The water shelves were empty at the Walmart on Augusta Road in West Columbia on Thursday. But other hot-ticket items such as bread and paper towels were overstocked in preparation for increased traffic.

With a case of water in their shopping cart, Johniya Bynem and her friend Jennifer Jones, who is staying with Bynem until Hurricane Ian passes, were shopping for what they thought would be necessary. They said they didn’t know how bad conditions might be. But they planned on having the necessary items to stay indoors.

Like Bynem and Jones, grocery stores do not always know what to expect, but stores like KJ’s plan to stay ready. Warren said she has a truck coming in on Saturday for the aftermath of the storm.

“We’re trying,” Warren said.


Milk was in short supply at a Cayce Food Lion on Thursday. (Photo by Shakeem Jones)

Toilet paper was in short supply at a West Columbia Walmart on Thursday. (Photo by Shakeem Jones)

A Cayce Food Lion was selling bottled water Thursday as part of residents’ hurricane preparation. (Photo by Shakeem Jones)


Shakeem Jones

Shakeem Jones

Jones is a senior journalism major at the University of South Carolina, focusing on diversity in the arts and culture community. He is a first-generation, Black college student from Greenville, S.C., who knows first-hand what it feels like to be part of an underrepresented community. He is interested in the music industry. He cannot sing, so writing about music is his next best option.

Noah Watson

Noah Watson

Watson is a senior sports journalism major at the University of South Carolina. He looks for the obscure side of sports, focusing on the fun. He has covered sports for the student-run Daily Gamecock and WACH FOX 57. His dream job is to make sports documentaries.