Thursday, September 02, 2004

IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD - Tempers Flare As Supplies Run Out
Tempers flared Thursday morning as hundreds of people waiting to buy hurricane supplies at a Home Depot on Alafaya Trail saw the doors closed.

Store officials temporarily refused to allow anyone else inside at about 9 a.m., when they thought they were losing control of a line of customers waiting for a truck of supplies to arrive, said Orange County Sheriff's spokesman Cpl. Carlos Torres.

Many customers had been waiting since 4 a.m., when the store opened early to handle what was expected to be a heavy day of sales. A group of about 30 had spent the night outside the store waiting to buy generators only to learn that a Home Depot supplier would not ship any more until after Hurricane Frances struck, so the hardest hit areas could be served first.

Deputies were summoned to the store when the customers who had arrived early became upset with later-arriving customers who sneaked into the line snaking through the store.

"It's getting kind of hairy. I'll tell you what, it's going to be worse tomorrow," Torres said. "Everybody knows if they act up they're going to get kicked out. And if they get kicked out , they won't get their stuff."

Tensions also rose at the Home Depot at the corner of West Colonial Drive and Hiawassee, where hundreds of customers formed three lines from the parking lot to the store's registers in order to buy plywood, nails, water, duct tape and other items.

At 8:10 a.m. at the same store, an El Sentinel reporter observed a brief shoving match when a woman in line lost her temper and shoved a store employee.

Meanwhile, Interstate 4 road rage took on bizarre dimensions Thursday morning.

Two tractor trailer drivers parked in the middle of the interstate and had a fist fight.

"I've been a cop for 26 years and I thought I had seen everything," said Orange County sheriff's Chief Steve Jones, who broke up the fist fight. "Now I can say I have seen everything."

Jones was driving eastbound at 9:45 a.m. in bumper-to-bumper traffic toward what he thought must have been an accident. That's when he noticed two 18-wheelers stopped in the middle of the eastbound lanes as their drivers duked it out.

"I jumped out of my car, crossed the median and said, 'What are you guys doing? Y'all have any idea that the entire coast of Florida is evacuating and you're stopping traffic to fight?'" he said. "Just look, there's a million people behind you."

Ordered to get back in their trucks and leave, one of the drivers tried to argue the other one pushed him first.

"Obviously, on any other day, both of them would have gone to jail but that really would have backed up traffic," Jones said. "What would I do with two semis?"

Elsewhere, traffic backed up in both directions near the Lake Ivanhoe interchange as motorists stared in disbelief.

From the Orlando Sentinel.

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