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'Repent!': D.C. Merchants, Tourists and Homeless Brace for Hurricane Sandy

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D.C. residents purchase last minute supplies, including a dwindling supply of sadbags, from Ace Hardware on Monday afternoon. D.C. residents purchase last minute supplies, including a dwindling supply of sadbags, from Ace Hardware on Monday afternoon. Photo by Mark Micheli

With just hours to go until Hurricane Sandy makes landfall, residents were running around Washington D.C. stocking up on last minute supplies. At a Safeway near the corner of New York Ave. and L St. NW bottled water was in short supply and the ice freezer was completely empty.

Next door at Ace Hardware, essential provisions were flying off shelves. Among the items in short supply were batteries—particularly D batteries—sandbags and flashlights.

“It’s been pretty busy since about Thursday and we’re selling out of some stuff really fast,” said Crystle Davis, Assistant Manager at Ace Hardware. “We just got in a total of 100 sandbags and we’re already down to 12 bags. We also just got a shipment of flashlights and those will probably be gone within the next two hours.”

Davis said she planned to close the store by 2 p.m. Not because the storm was expected to increase in severity but because the Metro system was shut down.

“We’re just trying to get home while we can,” said Davis. “Most of [our employees] will have to catch cabs home—we’re all metro riders.”

Adria Shrikhande and her sister were purchasing a wet-dry vacuum and searching through a bin of the remaining flashlights in stock. The two, who work as consultants for DoD, had just moved to Washington when Hurricane Irene hit last year.

“Irene wasn’t nearly as bad,” said Shrikhande. “Our power went out for like five minutes. [With Hurricane Sandy] we’re worried about flooding. We live on the courtyard level of our building so we’re watching water come toward our patio door and it’s building up.”

Down closer to the National Mall, some were out walking in the storm by choice while others had nowhere else to go.

Vickie Brown stood huddled inside a doorway at First Trinity Lutheran Church at 309 E St. NW. Brown, who is homeless, had all her possessions covered with plastic bags in a small shopping cart.

“There’s nowhere to go and there’s no centers for the homeless,” said Brown. “It’s going to get worse and we don’t know what we’re going to do. We need somebody to put us in some shelter…this is severe weather, nobody should be out here!”

Down along Pennsylvania Ave. outside the Newseum, Jim Evans and his wife Laura were taking in the sights while they still could. The Oregon natives arrived in Washington on Saturday afternoon to meet friends from Paris and said they boarded their flight hoping the weather forecasts would be wrong.

“This is our first time to Washington D.C. and we’ve only got a few days to see things,” said Jim. “We’re from Oregon and it rains there all the time so this is not too different.”

Laura quickly added: “Well, it’s a little different—this is much windier.”

Looking around at the empty streets of downtown Washington, the couple remarked that it looked like a science fiction movie.

“It’s interesting how empty the streets are,” said Laura. “I’m sure it’s not normally like this.”

On the corner of 9th and E St, Ronald Brock was stocking up on supplies for his mobile home. Brock doesn’t live in just any mobile home; his home is a shocking sight familiar to many D.C. visitors—the Truth Truck.

Covered in images of men kissing and huge signs reading “Stop Sodmite Marriage, No on Question 6,” Brock had a very different view than most about what was behind Hurricane Sandy’s appearance less than two weeks before the Nov. 6 elections.

“How much clearer can the Lord be?” he asked. “He’s the God of nature and he speaks to us through nature! How many warning will we have before God finally say ‘Enough’ and we’re done?”

Brock, who had just purchased a full tank of gas and food, planned to park his truck on Constitution Ave. and weather the storm in front of the White House.

Think there’s a silver lining in Brock’s message? Don’t count on it: “We are going down,” he said. His advice for those in Hurricane Sandy’s path: “REPENT!”

For more coverage on Hurricane Sandy, read GovExec’s continuous updates, track the storm in real time, and learn how to prepare and stay safe. 

Mark Micheli is Special Projects Editor for Government Executive Media Group. He's the editor of Excellence in Government Online and contributes to GovExec, NextGov and Defense One. Previously, he worked on national security and emergency management issues with the US Treasury Department and the Department of Homeland Security. He's a graduate of the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs and studied at Drake University.

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