Prepare now for possible power outages

TAMPA, Fla. - More than a million Americans on the east coast are still suffering the effects of last Friday's powerful storms, leaving many without power.

Extreme heat is now blamed for eight deaths in Maryland, and the number of people killed in those violent weekend storms has climbed to 22.  

For hundreds of thousands, this is day four with no power, as food in refrigerators rots and frustration mounts.

Power outages are nothing new to Floridians, but experts admit there is one lesson no one ever seems to learn:  Prepare in advance.

With the wide variety of flashlights and batteries at Bay to Bay Hardware, it may seem impossible that the entire city's stock would ever run out.

Except, that's exactly what happened in 2005.

"Our owner had to go as far as Pasco County to purchase batteries and bring them in," remembered store manager Mike Pisarski.  "Crazy when it happens."

Like many stores up the Atlantic coast this week, Bay to Bay Hardware also ran out of generators.

"I had waiting lists for these," Pisarski said.  "They were flying off the shelves."

Seven years later, Pasco County hardware stores report the same problem after Debby left some without power for up to a week.

"I think people have this idea that it's not going to happen to them," said Red Cross volunteer Brittany Meynardie.  "If a storm does happen and emergency crews can't get to you right away, you're going to be in trouble."

Emergency kit must-haves include flashlights, batteries, a gallon of water per person per day, non-perishable food, a battery powered radio, and if financially possible, a generator and fuel container.

But most importantly, experts call the emergency must-not the most common mistake:  Procrastinating.

"Normally people just wait until the last minute.  It happens every time," Pisarski said.  "I've been in this store for 28 years, and for every hurricane that's come through or threatened, it's been the same story every time."

A story with an unhappy ending if, in a case like Tropical Storm Debby, flood waters make last-minute shopping impossible.

"This might have been a wake-up call for a lot of people.  'Hey, I need to prepare, because it could happen again," Meynardie said.

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