Worrying over Water, a look back on Irma.

“We’re already out of gallon and 24-pack water,” said assistant Publix grocery manager Kevin Karr on Thursday, September 7.

Karr works in Athens, Georgia—an inland city that would be moderately hit by Hurricane Irma four days later. Athens grocery stores were packed with water-conscious customers for nearly a week leading up to Hurricane Irma’s arrival. With such a high demand for water in Florida, supermarkets in Georgia struggled to keep up with the demand.

“I anticipate that water, bread and milk are going to get bought out first,” said Karr.

Karr’s predictions were correct as University of Georgia students and townies alike flocked to the supermarket to stock their shelves. “A lot of our water and bread is still empty on the shelf,” said Karr , five days after the storm blew through.

The near empty water aisle at Eastside Publix Super Market in Athens | Photo by Nicholas Cordts

Natural disasters can easily contaminate drinking water. Ready.gov states how essential it is to prepare a lasting water source before any state of emergency. On their website, people are advised to store at least one gallon of water per person for three days.

The site goes on to say that a normally active person needs roughly three quarters of gallon of fluid per day—whether that be from water or other beverages. However, this amount varies on age, climate, and other variables.



The backstock pallets of water that were all sold before Irma | Photo by Nicholas Cordts

“It took about 24 hours to sell through 12 pallets of water. I think we sold five times the amount of water we normally sell in a given week,” said Karr.

A survey of 350 people in the area showed that 52.2% went out to buy water. The remaining 47.8% did not—many claiming that they filled up empty bottles and pitchers around the house before the storm hit.

Luckily for Athens residents, water supply stayed clean. The county’s state-of-the-art wastewater treatment facilities took care of the mess.

Regardless, when asked if the panic over water was for no reason, Karr acknowledged that buying bottles was the smart decision. “No, the panic wasn’t for no reason,” he said. 

By: Lizzie Chambers, Nicholas Cordts, Denver Ellison, Ansley Gentry

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