Customers aplenty, cashiers busy as Jamaicans prepare for furious Ian
Shoppers wait to pay for their goods as news of Tropical Storm Ian's unwelcome visit circulates. (Photo: Karl Mclarty)

Supermarkets across the Corporate Area on Saturday were marked by three things: long queues, stock clerks restocking shelves, and busy cashiers.

A general check by the Jamaica Observer saw various managers sharing that because of a warning issued by the Meteorological Service of Jamaica against Tropical Storm Ian, customers were flocking the establishments.

Sonia Labeach Dillon, supervisor at Sampars on Retirement Road, St Andrew, told the Sunday Observer that things got busier than usual.

"For the past two days, since the tropical storm warning was issued, we have an influx of customers. We have customers that are not our regular customers and what I notice is that they are purchasing mostly is water, tin stuff and dry products like biscuit and snacks. The rice, flour and sugar are going as well, but it's mostly the stuff that are not perishable being purchased and juices as well," she said, as she assisted cashiers who were being bombarded by trolleys packed with goods.

"So far, we are holding our own. We have not run out of any item. I don't know what will happen as the day progresses. Since we opened this morning, we have been extremely busy, and the day is still young. I know we're maybe going to be here for the rest of the day," Dillon added.

The Meteorological Service said Tropical Storm Ian could produce 100-200 millimetres of rainfall, mainly over eastern and southern parishes as it passes close to the island on Saturday night and Sunday.

At 4:00 am, the centre of Tropical Storm Ian was located near latitude 14.7 degrees north, longitude 73.5 degrees west, or about 510 kilometres (315 miles) south-east of Kingston, or 459 kilometres (285 miles) south-east of Morant Point, Jamaica. Ian is moving towards the west near 22 km/h (14 mph).

Meanwhile, Dillon said she wasn't expecting a shift in customer behaviour throughout Saturday.

"It's going to be exactly like what is happening now. Last night… even up until nine o' clock, we were extremely busy. What I observed over the years is that Jamaicans will always be Jamaicans. We react very last minute. But there are some customers who are more conscious than others and they will try to come out and beat the crowd."

Donette Bryan, assistant manager at John R Wong Supermarket, recalled Friday night being extremely busy even two hours have doors were closed.

"Friday's crowd was more than today. We closed about 9:00 pm Friday, and we didn't get out of here until maybe about 11:00 pm," Bryan told the Sunday Observer about 1:00 pm Saturday.

"We almost run out of items. We have a lot of customers. The place is overcrowded and we have a lot of items like the crackers, bread, sardine and tin items mainly going. I don't see the hurricane items like the batteries and flashlights moving as usual. "

Bryan admitted, however, that the branch was not entirely prepared for a "storm crowd."

"We did not store that much. We didn't prepare for a hurricane. But we have items for the normal day-to-day shopping, but not enough for this kind of crowd. When you say storm, you know Jamaican people on a whole… everybody is going to turn out in high numbers."

Saturday afternoon, the Meteorological Service gave an update saying on its current track, the centre of Tropical Storm Ian is forecast to move across the central Caribbean Sea later in the day, pass south-west of Jamaica on Sunday, and pass near or over the Cayman Islands Sunday night and early Monday.

Further, Cecil Walters, manager at Brooklyn Supermarket on Hope Road, told the Sunday Observer that a lot of items were "fast moving".

"We have seen an influx of customers… more than the ordinary number. We are usually bust at month end, but this was month end plus, and it still is. Today is Saturday and we are still seeing the same thing that we saw yesterday. It has been extraordinary. People are mostly shopping for hurricane items like batteries, candles, kerosene oil and a lot of canned food and food that are not perishable. People are grabbing those," he said.

"We see a lot of toilet paper going as well. It's just the basic items plus some other items to carry them through the storm. Water is going like crazy. Water has been selling like crazy. Some people want their liquor too for when they are at home with nothing to do if light goes away. So, people are buying up liquor. We haven't run out of anything as yet. We were prepared for the month end, and because of that preparation, it kind of absorbs the crowd. So, we are good for another couple days as well."

Some of the other main outlets in the Corporate Area, like PriceSmart, and Mega Mart, saw shoppers converging on them in high numbers.

Roxanne Bennett says she is picking up "essesntials" in preparation for Tropical Storm Ian. (Photo: Karl Mclarty)
Shopping up a storm at Sampars (Photo: Karl Mclarty)
Shericka Thomas, cashier at John R Wong Supermarket, attends to a long queue of customers. (Photo: Karl Mclarty)
Romardo Lyons

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