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Norwalkers Buy Flashlights as 'World Ends'

NORWALK, Conn. – As Hurricane Irene heads this way, they tell you to have flashlights — but try to find one.

"I just went to Home Depot," Joan Caviola said Thursday afternoon. "Home Depot was completely out of flashlights and when you walk in they're unloading boxes of batteries. ... Walmart is chaotic; the shelves are getting liquidated. The world is coming to an end. I think it's hysterical."

Caviola, who has lived in Rowayton all her life, was at Rowayton Hardware at about 2:30 p.m. and was happy to see that the hometown store was still stocked. Proprietor Sam Munshi had flashlights, complete with batteries. He had a few lanterns left. He even had one set of D batteries hanging on the wall as well as sterno.

Caviola said that wasn't the case at other places. Costco had a "line out the door," she said. When she got out of her car at the Walmart parking lot, a man said, "Don't even go in there."

Her story checked out. There were no flashlights on the shelves at Home Depot. A cashier said the store was out of flashlights when she came in at 11:30 a.m. But a woman working the service desk said she had sold the last ones at about 3 p.m. – two little L.E.D. flashlights, on the display next to her register.

They were $40 or $50, she said, adding, "It's crazy." But there really were flashlights still available. A woman who came in at 4:15 p.m. found them. After being told "sold out" by a greeter at the door, she headed back to look for herself.

High overhead the nearly empty shelves were boxes. A clerk pulled them out while a little crowd watched. He found Maglites : long heavy-duty flashlights that require D batteries. The store was out of D batteries.

There were weird little L.E.D. flashlights with a mirror under the lens. The clerk winced when the woman shined it in his direction. The Maglite packages turned out to have an appeal: some of them had batteries in them.

Others had one long flashlight and a bonus short flashlight. Customers held the package, trying to determine whether there were batteries in them by the weight. "It's heavy, but that's the flashlight," the clerk said. "There are no batteries included."

"OK, so this is our choice?" she asked. "No lanterns?" No lanterns. Someone said there were a few left at Sports Authority. Reluctantly, the customers took the Maglite with the batteries.

It was the first place the woman went looking for batteries. She wasn't happy with the service. "When we walked in the woman said there were no flashlights," she said. "I said, 'Let's just go down there. Sometimes people pick things up and then they're gone'  -- and then there were boxes there. It was just false information."

There were no lanterns, flashlights or D batteries at Sports Authority. Lou Vega, a sales associate, said they were sold out that morning. "People heard hurricane and they all came running," he said.

Walmart was also sold out. A clerk laughed when asked whether there were D batteries.

Costco had the courtesy to put up a sign. "We Are Currently Sold Out of D Battery," it said. A person at the service desk said none were expected until Saturday.

Munshi, the proprietor in Rowayton, was expecting D batteries Friday. "I hope he shows up," he said. The delivery would be 20 packs of D batteries, two to a package.

"We love this store," his customers said. Caviola, the grateful customer who thought the run on flashlights was hysterical, joked about buying the flashlights and reselling them. "Two flashlights!" she said. "$100!"

But she was worried about the storm coming through and knocking down trees, the trees she had grown up with. "It's not funny," she said. "I'm trying to laugh it off, like it's not going to happen to us."

What are you doing to prepare for Hurricane Irene?

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