D.C. residents hit stores, ride it out as Sandy approaches

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Local,DC,Maryland,Virginia,Liz Farmer

Across the region on Monday, shoppers ventured out to grab last-minute items before stores joined the rest of the world in hunkering down for the worst of Hurricane Sandy, expected by nightfall.

Those looking for batteries, flashlights or handheld radios may have waited too long as many stores had already been picked over. In Rockville, a manager at the Radio Shack on Rockville Pike said the store ran out of DD batteries on Friday, and flashlights and radios disappeared off the shelves over the weekend.

(See a photo gallery of storm images and follow the latest updates from the Examiner)

Many grocery stores also were running low on the essentials as shoppers flocked to grab whatever was left. In Bethesda, Jean Margaritis, 30, stocked up Monday afternoon on water and ice at the Giant Food store to prepare for her first hurricane since moving here.

"I feel pretty OK," she said. "I'm not really worried, actually. Maybe I should be."

(Watch storm videos from the D.C. region and the latest videos from around the country)

Area homeowners weren't taking chances as many were hitting up supply stores. At the busy Home Depot in Gaithersburg, Toni Morgan was loading a large sheet of plywood into her van.

"We have a big window in our bedroom," she said. "So this will go up there."

In Prince George's County, trees had already fallen into several roadways and good Samaritans passing by were getting out of their cars to help clear the way.

But as the afternoon wore on, the winds picked up and the number of cars on the roads lessened. Dave Russell and three friends were among those still out driving in the District at 2 p.m. -- but unlike most, their trip had started Sunday night in Chicago.

Thanks to Sandy, their Sunday night flight was canceled and the next available wasn't leaving until Wednesday. Russell said his group rented one of the last cars at the airport to beat the storm back to D.C.

"We really didn't get upset because there's nothing you could do about it," Russell said. "Every airport on the East Coast was closed."

In fact, Sandy put a halt to thousands of travel plans across the country as rail and air travel shut down. Metro station gates were padlocked, and bus stops were abandoned. At some Metro stations, taxis lined up to get fares from unsuspecting riders who hadn't yet heard that the trains weren't running. In the District, cabs initiated a $15 hazard pay fee to pick up customers in the severe weather.

At Union Station, stranded travelers mingled with tourists and others looking for a respite from the storm.

Chad Reed was dealt a blow when he arrived at Union Station only to find that his connecting train was canceled -- leaving him stranded with no way to get to his brother's wedding in Northern Virginia. Reed, from St. Louis, waited from 2 a.m. Monday until late afternoon to be picked up by his family.

But for one Capitol Hill establishment, Monday's weather didn't change a thing. Inside, the bar was nearly full before 11 a.m., and a bartender was pouring coffee and a screwdriver with a generous hand on the vodka.

"We're the Tune Inn. We never close," said John "Currly" Clark, a longtime server.

The watering hole was open during the 2010 Snowmageddon, and it would stay open for Sandy. Only a devastating fire last year closed down the local bar for the first time since it opened in 1947.

"I think people are being ridiculous," Clark said. "They act like they are going to be stuck in their house for weeks."

Examiner Staff Writers Matt Connolly, Abby Hamblin, Kate Jacobson and Kytja Weir contributed to this report.

lfarmer@washingtonexaminer.com

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Liz Farmer

Examiner Staff Writer
The Washington Examiner