Diapers? Plenty of stores had them. Milk? Al's Valueland had gallons of it. Bread? Running low but still available. Kerosene, heaters and generators? Forget it.
"Nobody in town has them," Liz Waltman, a clerk at Laughlin's Ace Hardware, said Wednesday. "Yesterday they said they were going to try and get us something, but they weren't able to."Bare shelves are the latest discomfort of the fierce winter storm that swept across the eastern two-thirds of the nation this week, stranding Midwest motorists and forcing thousands to flee their frigid or flooded homes. Some 28,000 homes and businesses in northern Indiana were without power Thursday - and travel on snow- and ice-covered roads was still a headache.
"There are times when you've got to let off the gas and slow down," said Tom Na-deau, who spent Wednesday night at the Flying J Truckstop in Indianapolis. "And there's times when you've just got to park it." He let his Milwaukee-bound shipment wait rather than chance a wreck.
After weeks of mostly mild temperatures credited to El Nino, the storm system brought floodwaters to the South, heavy rain to the Northeast and a blizzard to the Midwest and Plains.
More than 500 people were at shelters in Albany, Ga., where 11,000 people have fled their homes amid floodwaters since Monday. The Flint River was down 4 feet from Tuesday's high mark but was expected to rise again before cresting Saturday.
And now comes the cold. After record lows as far south as Miami Beach, Fla., and Mobile, Ala., on Wednesday, icy temperatures returned Thursday - down to 27 degrees in Columbia, S.C., 8 below in Des Moines, Iowa, and a record low for the date of 19 in Memphis, Tenn.
In North Carolina, windy conditions were combined with temperatures for a second straight morning in the teens and 20s, and some mountain areas got up to 6 inches of snow Wednesday night and Thursday.
From Florida to the Great Lakes, farmers nervously watched fields and orchards, worried that a killing frost could leave their crops a withered disaster.
The cold will devastate early-blooming garden plants and ornamentals such as forsythia, crab apples, Bradford pears and magnolias, said Steve Bennett, general manager of Riverbend Nurseries in Thompson's Station, Tenn.
"It's just one of the things we have to put up with in this business. God rules," he said.