Even as the outer bands of the remains of Hurricane Sandy pelted Williamsport with gusts of wind and sporadic downpours Monday afternoon, shoppers hurriedly walked the aisles and scoured store shelves, some of which were laid bare before the brunt of the storm hit the region.
Bread, in some cases, was limited or gone, instant pudding had disappeared and water was available but not plentiful as were gallons of milk and hot dogs.
"It's easy to see what the big sellers are," said a Wegmans employee.
Last-minute shoppers speed through Wegmans Monday afternoon, trying to stock up before the worst of the storm. At top, a customer walks by an empty shelf in the bread section.
"I'm shopping for my children," said Kathyleen Borgess, of Williamsport, who had milk and planned to cook hot dogs in her fireplace should the power go out.
Her fears were whether the wind would howl enough to break windows and if tree limbs near her house would strike it.
Nathan Bower, 19, also of the city, was shopping on behalf of his mother. A welder by trade, he said the mood inside the store seemed to be hectic, and bordering on panic.
City resident Craig Gittens was another shopper in that same situation, out in the rain taking preventive measures for his children. He was at the store, sent there by his wife, to buy bread, milk, eggs, cheese and crackers.
Gittens, who is from the Bronx, N.Y., said he couldn't find the kind of bread he wanted so he settled for bagels in a pinch.
"It was kind of funny (that) bread, not bagels, was in short supply," he said.
"I'm getting some things ahead of the storm," said Lori DeRemer, of Linden. In her cart were bananas, a birthday card and bread.
John Reichenbach, who portrays Santa in the city, sported his traditional white beard and wore a T-shirt showing he had visited the Outer Banks of North Carolina. "I've been through Hurricane Hazel in the 1950s, Camille in the 1960s ... this is a break in the monotony," he said.
Reichenbach had been in Lancaster earlier and saw more than 20 utility repair vehicles headed east.
According to Wegmans' Twitter page, nearly all of its stores in Pennsylvania closed at 7 p.m. Monday and were scheduled to reopen at 7 a.m. today, weather permitting.
"The big push was Friday, Saturday and Sunday," said Chris Brand, manager of public relations for Giant Food Stores. Monday was "fairly steady" with most customers in the 198 stores buying basics such as produce, canned goods, water, milk and bread.
"Our plan is to stay open and operational throughout the storm," he said.
However, the store associates' safety is important, too.
Whenever wind gusts reach 50 mph, it becomes "treacherous" for tractor-trailers, especially the 55-footers on the highways, he said.
Store management monitors the wind gusts, rain and flooding, and many roads are being closed or reduced speeds are enforced. "Many roads have the speed limit dropped down to 45 mph," he said.
Earlier this year the store expanded its perishable distribution center providing a large inventory of necessities during storms such as batteries, bread and water and it allowing Giant to stay in stock.
As of 6 p.m., one store was out of power in Quakertown.
The stores have generators that can run registers, lights and the PA systems.
Weis Markets also scheduled extra shipments of water, milk and bread to its stores and have brought in additional cashiers and stock associates to meet the increased demand from customers.
In the event of power outages, the stores have back-up generators that allow them to run their front-end systems, Weis spokesman Dennis Curtin said. The stores would have to shut down their cold and frozen cases but still can sell dry groceries, he said.