There’s a Walmart in Valdosta right off I-75 that sits 13½ miles from the Florida border. And with millions of Floridians evacuating the neighboring peninsula due to Hurricane Irma, surprise, that store is quite busy.
About 6 p.m. Saturday in the bread aisle, there were about a dozen sliced Sara Lee loaves that truly seemed like they were only there because frantic folks didn’t see them on the bottom shelf, and then there were six gluten-free pizza crusts remaining in addition to some Hawaiian rolls.
As for canned soup, there was only enough Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup to make one green bean casserole.
Customers were limited to three cases of water each, but it seemed that was the only hurricane staple that was being rationed.
Outside the store, recreational vehicles — many with Florida license plates — lined the perimeter of the parking lot.
Jeane Ybarra, her husband, their children, her 75-year-old father and a 4-month-old grandchild were all split between two RVs parked at the Walmart.
Most of the family members works together as circus performers in Fantazia Circus based out of Sarasota, on the west coast of Florida, where they boarded up their house before leaving.
Ybarra, the ring leader (literally), said about 6 p.m. that they were going to wait five hours to see what the storm would do before deciding where to go.
“Our family is with us. We have the motor homes if something happens with the house and at least we have a place to live,” she said.
Kevin and Karen Dennis were taping back up the plastic covering their mattress to keep it safe on top of their SUV in the parking lot.
“We got such a good deal, we had to take it with us,” she said.
They left their condo in Temple Terrace, a Tampa suburb right on the Hillsborough River, about 5 a.m. Saturday for Florence, Alabama, to stay with some friends.
They said they were impressed with the welcome center at the state line, where people were giving out hotdogs, drinks and chips to evacuees.
But with the storm heading for Valdosta, they wanted to get out of South Georgia as quickly as possible.
Karen Dennis said she was a native Floridian who has never evacuated, but Irma has her scared for her home.
“This kind of thing never happens. Who knows, it could be toothpicks,” she said.