FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. — Many Southwest Floridians do two things before a storm, hydrate and libate.
Heather Meinke spent the afternoon restocking shelves after Friday morning’s rush.
“As soon as I walked in, they were right behind me,” she said.
She says people were waiting for her to open the door at Valerie’s Lounge and Liquor. They told her they were stocking up on booze ahead of Tropical Depression Fred, which is expected to impact Southwest Florida this weekend.
She says they see a 20 percent jump in liquor sales during the morning hours on days leading up to a storm. Meinke says the timing of their expected traffic shifts right before a big storm.
“Sales are [typically] afternoon, evenings, but during a storm, we usually see early mornings, and early afternoons to prepare,” she said.
"Prepare" for storm parties.
But when it comes to stronger storms, mental health experts like Alise Bartley, Director of the Community Counseling Center at Florida Gulf Coast University, warn of the risks of participating in these storm parties.
“You’re going to have to make those decisions very, very quickly, and when you’re under the influence of alcohol, it can negatively impact your safety,” she said.
Bartley says prioritize safety over having a good time.
“So, maybe it’s time to focus the storm parties around playing games together,” she said.
Adjacent to the liquor store in Valerie’s, the bar sees pretty consistent traffic, too. Meinke says she also urges locals to be safe. If the storm gets bad, she says the liquor can wait.