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No tax, no storm threatening - get supplies now

Until June 1, there's no sales tax on generators and other items needed to weather a hurricane. Some area shoppers checked items off their lists Sunday.

By KEVIN GRAHAM and TAMARA EL-KHOURY
Published May 22, 2006


TAMPA - If Home Depot listed it under "hurricane supplies" in its shopper guide, he had it, Rick Califano said.

"I look at these lists they put together, and there isn't anything I don't have," the Tampa resident said. "I just hope not to need them."

Califano chose Sunday to buy the missing item on his check list, a generator, taking advantage of the state's tax-free holiday for hurricane supplies that lasts through June 1.

Gregg Ritola, manager of the Home Depot off Interstate 275 and N Dale Mabry Highway, said sales were up 30 percent compared with a regular Sunday.

"This year, we are ready," Ritola said of his stock of hurricane supplies.

The store had ordered an extra warehouse filled with things in high demand during the tax-free days.

For $554.08, Califano bought a 5,000-watt generator. Home Depot was offering an additional 7.5 percent discount, matching the state's tax-free discount.

"The No. 1 reason I'm here is the price," said Joe Robles of Tampa.

He experienced three days without electricity during one of last year's storms. With an elderly mother at home to care for, he didn't want to take that chance again. He bought a generator too.

"Be prepared," Robles said, as Home Depot sales associates lifted the portable generator from a mountain of others like it and placed it on a cart.

Ginny Kale, of Tampa browsed the hurricane displays that welcomed shoppers inside the entrance of Home Depot.

She already had a "bunch of stuff," at home, she said. But a few extra batteries, flash lights and a tarp didn't hurt.

"I guess I just figured our days are numbered," Kale said. "I've been pretty lucky so far."

Home Depot employees gave shoppers copies of the store's hurricane preparation guide and handouts of supplies check lists.

People who purchased generators were encouraged to buy two to three 5-gallon fuel tanks and a carbon monoxide detector.

Representatives from the Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency were at the Home Depot on 22nd Avenue N in St. Petersburg on Sunday, providing information to shoppers.

Employees at the St. Petersburg store ran clinics on how to protect yourself, including sessions on how to safely operate a generator and how to prepare windows for a storm.

"It was a good day to get information because there seem to be plenty of supplies right now," said Nancy Clues, assistant manager for the store on 22nd Avenue N.

The clinics were popular, Clues said, and will run all week. She said the store had plenty of items in stock.

"We don't have a storm sitting out there," Clues said. "People don't feel that urge when they see 10 generators on the floor that they have to buy that day. They can go home and plan."

Larry DeMarcay and his 21-month-old daughter, Lanie, were among the few Sunday morning at the Home Depot in Tampa without anything hurricane-related in their shopping cart.

DeMarcay and his family lived in Jefferson Parish in Louisiana when Hurricane Katrina hit. They now live in south Tampa.

"I'm not really worried about (hurricane season)," DeMarcay said. "But we were worried before."

He said he had a plan during Katrina and he'll use it again if a major storm hits Tampa Bay this year.

"Just leave," he said.

SUPPLY LIST

A sample price list of tax-free hurricane supplies at Home Depot

5, 000-watt generator - $554.0

44-inch aluminum storm shutters - $12.95

Six-volt Eveready Lantern with battery - $4.97

11 feet 4 inch by 15 feet-6 inch all purpose blue tarpaulin - $17.95

Four-piece set of 15 feet ratcheting tie downs - $13.76

5-gallon fuel tank - $5.97

Carbon monoxide detector - $21.97

 

[Last modified May 22, 2006, 08:14:57]


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