COLLEGE PARK- Supermarkets throughout central Maryland were flooded with shoppers Tuesday, as much of the official Washington was sent home in the wake of the morning attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.
Shoppers went into winter-storm mode, stocking up on everything from water to bread to batteries.
“It was panic buying,” said Craig Muckle, a spokesman for the eastern division of Safeway. “People don’t know if they will be sequestered on a day-to- day basis.”
Groceries were calling their suppliers or warehouses by early afternoon to order more stock, and at least one supermarket limited the number of shoppers who could enter the store at a time.
From about 11 a.m. on, many Maryland grocery stores were filled, with most stores reporting close to 100 shoppers at a time. Checkout lines often reached mid-aisle and some stores ran out of shopping carts.
At a Giant Food in Baltimore, store employee Monica Murphy said it “was like a snow day.”
In order to deal with the staff shortages, many stores called in outside help or asked employees to stay on after their shifts ended. Muckle said that managers at most of the Safeway stores joined cashiers to work the overwhelmed registers.
“Employees are out picking up kids from school,” Muckle said. “There are more customers and a shortage of people.”
Melissa Popham said that the Shoppers Food Warehouse in Upper Marlboro was so busy and that people seemed so “on edge” that the store placed a manager at the door to limit entry to two shoppers at a time.
Certain items were scarce by the end of the day. Barry Scher, a spokesman for Giant Food Inc., said his stores had to bring in more bread and water from their warehouses.
John McDonough of Chevy Chase Supermarket said he was “wiped out” of produce, meat and milk. He increased his orders Tuesday so that he would have extra for the next couple of days.
Scher said Giant Food donated products to the Red Cross and 90 pounds of burn cream to the Washington Hospital Center.
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