Grocers and hardware stores in Little Rock were doing big business Thursday as residents stocked up on supplies like flashlights, generators, bread and milk in advance of an expected ice storm.
Jim White, manager of the downtown Fuller and Son Hardware, said three of the chain's locations set records for pre-storm sales on Wednesday.
"We're real busy," he said. "We tripled our business yesterday and we anticipate to do that again today."
More than 30 counties across the state, including Pulaski County, are under an ice storm warning, meaning significant accumulations could make travel difficult and, at least for a time, take out large swaths of the power grid.
In Little Rock's Hillcrest neighborhood, meanwhile, business was booming Thursday morning at the Kroger on Beechwood Street. Shoppers with carts full of milk, eggs, batteries, pet food and other essentials were checking out in every aisle. Some loaves of bread remained on the shelves, but only a fraction of the selection that appears on a typical day.
Andy Egbosimba, a co-manager at the store, said officials were in close communication with vendors and didn't expect to run out of any essentials except possibly for ice melt, which was going fast.
"It's been real hectic," he said Thursday at the store as a steady stream of shoppers moved in and out of the doors behind him. "We had a rush from 6 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. yesterday. And it's been non-stop today."
Egbosimba said there's even been a rush on Christmas tree purchases, apparently from shoppers wanting to get their tree set up before being iced in.
Christian Harris, a 43-year-old Little Rock resident, said he thinks the storm won't be as bad as forecasters predict, but he still figured he'd stock up on a few items like candles, bread and milk.
After all, Harris and his family, like many in Little Rock, endured more than a week without power last December when a Christmas Day storm wreaked havoc on the electric system.
"So we have paranoia now thinking we'll be without power," he said, noting his 5- and 3-year old daughters were "miserable" that time around.
Shane Wolfe, another 43-year-old Little Rock resident, also checked out early Thursday with a cart full of "basics" including batteries and candles for a possible power failure.
He said everything he needed was in stock Thursday morning, but he didn't want to wait any longer.
"It's only going to get worse," he said. "You won't be [able to buy it] later."
At the Enterprise car rental on Broadway Street in downtown Little Rock, workers were fielding numerous calls for four-wheel-drive vehicles and "especially trucks," said Jon Simmons, a management trainee.
"But being in Arkansas, we don't have a vast need," he said, "so we don't really carry them here."
At Fuller and Son, the hot items were generators and heaters.
As of 8:45 a.m. Thursday, the former was sold out (though more were set to arrive Friday), and the latter was dwindling quickly.
"I've got three heaters left that are gas," White, the manager, said. "I've got electric ones, but they really don't do you any good if the power goes out."