City crews were managing gas line-up traffic at Port Coquitlam's Costco and store shelves were quickly emptying of meat and other groceries today (Nov. 18) as the consequences of B.C’s devastating floods hit close to home.
"They’re hoarding and not really thinking about what they’re doing," exclaimed one harried deli worker at Costco.
Mayor Brad West made an urgent plea to residents to not take more than they needed and to consider their neighbours.
"Now is the time to be thinking of others, not just ourselves. There is no reason for hoarding and panic buying," West said in an interview with the Tri-City News.
"The grocery stores have been clear that they will be able to maintain their supplies if people maintain their normal purchasing."
But in a scene reminiscent of March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic began, there were signs residents were worried about getting enough dairy, meat and eggs.
At Costco and Walmart in Port Coquitlam, supplies of beef, pork and chicken were either gone or were being depleted despite limits in place to ensure enough supply.
There was plenty of toilet paper at both stores — a scarce commodity in March last year — but people could only grab two packages.
Eggs were a popular commodity at Costco, but limits were in place. One worker stocking a bin of ground beef said there was enough to go around except for ground turkey, which has to come from Alberta.
The Tri-City News spoke to several shoppers who said they were trying not to overbuy and were placing their faith in the supply chain to ensure there would be enough food for all.
"I was trying not to be worried about it. I was trying to get what I normally get," said one mom leaving Costco with a shopping cart of goods.
An older couple said they were surprised by how busy it was when they arrived at the warehouse chain, claiming they picked the wrong day to do their monthly shop.
They added they hope a recent change in eating habits to eat less meat and buy their eggs from a local farm will keep them in good shape in the coming weeks.
Ray Lee, a Port Moody resident who was shopping for himself and his martial arts business, said it felt a lot like holiday shopping, but everyone was polite and there were no issues compared to March 2020 when people were much more anxious.
"That was scary," he commented as he was purchasing his usual amount of goods while acknowledging that many are probably worried about supply chain disruptions and higher food prices.
Given all the worries, he said people were not especially panicking.
"Nobody seems to be in an agitated mood," he said.
Over at the Costco gas bar, a long line-up snaked through the main parking lot and Mayor West said city crews were arriving on the scene to ensure traffic didn’t spill out into the street.
One driver said he couldn’t understand why there was such a large crowd as he was looking to fill his vehicle with his usual amount of fuel.
A Costco worker speculated a combination of panic buying and the closure of the Abbotsford Costco and gas station were contributing to the crowds.
West is calling on people to not take advantage of the situation and instead, take stock of how well the city came through the recent record rainstorm.
"The same cannot be said for many other communities in the province. We should be sending our support to them."
At the Port Coquitlam Walmart, people appeared to be orderly and quiet as there were limits for some products, but several meat shelves and bins were bare.