Walmart water shelves

Water is starting to disappear from store shelves around the Charleston region. At one Walmart in Mount Pleasant, one brand remained early Monday morning, but a large section of the aisle was bare. Warren L. Wise/Staff

Bill Stovall of Mount Pleasant filled up his propane tank. James Ross of Manning carted out a load of bottled water. Jean McMillan of Daniel Island searched the shelves for food she doesn't have to heat up in case the power goes out.

They are among the many Charleston-area residents and workers getting ready for Hurricane Florence if it decides to nudge farther south than its current projected track into lower North Carolina.

Water, batteries, milk and bread seemed to still be in stock at most stores, but some shelves started to look thin early Monday.

At Lowe's hardware store in Mount Pleasant near Towne Centre, a sign showed generators were sold out Sunday afternoon. Another shipment arrived early Monday, and a store operator said, "Come as soon as possible."

At Walmart, only one brand of water remained, and customers were snatching it up quickly.

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Shelves of water begin to become bare at Publix supermarket on Folly Road on James Island on Monday. Lauren Petracca/Staff

"It's a gradual preparedness at this point," said Rob Timmerman, a manager at Lowcountry True Value Hardware store in Mount Pleasant.

The state's price-gouging law went into effect over the weekend.

Starting Saturday, when Gov. Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency in South Carolina but had not ordered any evacuations, Timmerman saw a steady stream of people buying chainsaws, gas cans, batteries and lanterns.

"And we've sold lots of propane," he said. "We have two more trucks coming in this week with more supplies."

McMaster announced an evacuation order Monday afternoon.

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A shopper stocks up on water on Monday at Harris Teeter supermarket in West Ashley ahead of Hurricane Florence. Lauren Petracca/Staff

Ross, pushing a cartload of water to his car from Walmart, said he had been to two other stores early Monday morning and they were sold out.

"I'm putting a roof on a house and meant to buy this for the guys working, but I might have to take some of it home with me," Ross said.

George Grantham of Sullivan's Island loaded his cart with hurricane supplies at Walmart. 

"Just in case," he said.

Water, radios, snack bars, raisins and chips nearly overflowed his grocery cart.

"I have a family of five with three kids," he said. "I'm not planning to go anywhere. If it starts looking worse, we will head out of town."

Sara Boynton of Mount Pleasant isn't planning to leave yet either.

Her family, with three school-age children, is staying put if the storm continues on its current path.

If they do decide to leave, Boynton said they will look to Atlanta or Asheville, N.C., for refuge.

Stovall, waiting to get his propane tank filled, also said he would stay put and keep an eye on the storm's track.

"Obviously I won't stay here if it's bad, but if it's not, we will weather the storm," he said. 

Reach Warren L. Wise at 843-937-5524. Follow him on Twitter @warrenlancewise.