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'It was insane': Crowds of shoppers stock up at WNY supermarkets

As preparations and precautions regarding the novel coronavirus ramped up Thursday, Western New Yorkers headed to the supermarket to stock up. When they did, they encountered unusually full parking lots, long lines and empty shelves.

In a word, for many who experienced it, it was "insane."

And it continues to be the talk of social media.

"Please pray for your local Wegmans employees during these trying times because this is absolute chaos," said @nick_lukasik Thursday.

User @Naomiatwater49 tweeted: "Went to Wegmans today and can now say that I know what the hunger games must be like."

News Photographer Harry Scull Jr. was at the Tops on Main and Union in Amherst, encountering full shopping carts that one usually only sees at certain times of year.

"I’ve never seen, other than a Bills Sunday or the day before Thanksgiving or Easter, lines wrap around as store like that," Scull said. "It was insane."

Scull described how a shipment of toilet paper had just arrived while he was there, with people lining up and taking the store-imposed limit of two packages.

"It was orderly," Scull said, "one by one people came by.

"The store was jam-packed. It seemed like what originally started as people hoarding toilet paper and cleaning products had now gone to the food."

Walking through the Amherst Street Wegmans entrance, shoppers were greeted by a dispenser of hand sanitizer and a sign asking all shoppers to use it before entering.

The shelves were cleared of paper products, and several food items were depleted.

All of the chicken had been purchased and there had been a run on many dairy items.

Melanie Orlins, a WIVB-TV anchor, posted a photo of an unnamed grocery store whose papers products were a distant memory and noted: "I actually NEED toilet paper ... "

One shopper at the Wegmans on McKinley Parkway in Hamburg said the parking lot and the store were extremely crowded, but shoppers were "patient. People were not jerks."

"You know it's going to be a busy day when people are wishing you luck – with a smile – when you enter the store," she said. And after a 45-minute wait at the checkout line, she said the same to incoming shoppers on her way out.

Friday morning Wegmans tweeted: "We are doing everything we can to continue our operations. We have no plans to close our stores. We will continue to be here for you in this time of need. Thank you for your support."

A Twitter search of "insane" and "supermarket" (or "Wegmans," etc.) shows that these circumstances are happening throughout the country.

Here are some other Thursday evening posts regarding Wegmans in Ithaca and Cherry Hill, N.J.

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