Ivy Yelverton drove into Goldsboro from Dudley Thursday just to stock up on water after visiting other stores and finding empty shelves.

"I went to Mount Olive and it was clean," she said. "The shelves were clean, and I was saying, 'What's going on?'"

Yelverton said she was only trying to make sure she and her husband didn't run out. She picked up four, 24-bottle packs of water at Food Lion on Ash Street.

"I'm just getting it so we have it," she said.

Residents from across Wayne County started hitting stores this week in preparation for Hurricane Irma by stocking up with food, water, flash lights, batteries and generators.

By Thursday afternoon, Hurricane Irma continued to be a powerful storm, packing sustained wind speeds of 175 mph and barrelling toward the Bahamas as a major category 5 hurricane.

Danielle Jones, a Goldsboro resident, filled her Food Lion shopping cart full of canned goods, like soup and spaghetti and meatballs, as well as a variety of snacks, water and Gatorade.

Jones remembers being less prepared during Hurricane Matthew, which led to widespread flooding and the loss of electricity for almost a week. During the 2016 hurricane, she nearly ran out of food and other supplies.

"We didn't take it serious and this year, I'm not playing with it," Jones said. "I've been keeping a track on Irma. I've already been to Walmart and got my cooler and batteries and flashlights and all that.

"I've got my candles. I've got my board games. I've got my portable phone charger."

Jones, who is preparing her family of seven, decided to shop early in an effort to beat the crowds that she expects will stock up on supplies throughout the weekend.

"It's going to be hectic probably (Friday) and Saturday," she said. "(I'm just) trying to be ahead of the curve."

Debi Broohm drove her neighbor, George Ellis, to the Piggly Wiggly on Lionel Street Thursday so he could stock up on food and other supplies before any potential storm strikes the area.

Broohm said she already had water and food at her home and planned to shop more after she received her Social Security check later this month.

She also said she is ready for whatever may come.

"I'm already prepared," she said. "I pray. We don't know tomorrow. We don't know tomorrow is coming."

Piggly Wiggly shoppers have already been buying up eggs, milk, bread, juice and water this week in preparation for the storm, said Terry Murch, assistant store manager.

"It's been busy," he said. "It's been picking up now. Some of the shelves have been scarce, but we're filling up right now. Water is going like crazy today."

The store has continued to stock shelves as supplies are delivered. A truck will deliver water today and a food delivery is planned Monday, he said.

"We hope everybody will be safe, and get what they need," Murch said.

Jewel Sauls also visited Harris Teeter on Wayne Memorial Drive to make sure she purchased enough food and water prior to the storm. She also planned to be better prepared this year.

"I've lived here 30 years and my husband's lived here all his life and in the last couple of years with all the hurricanes coming, we just learned to buy stuff you're going to use anyway," she said. "It never hurts to have it in your pantry or your kitchen."

During Hurricane Matthew in 2016, she felt like she was rushing to make sure her family was ready.

"This year, I thought I'd be a little better prepared," she said.

Delmus Hardware has also experienced a surge in customers shopping for oil lamps, bottled oil, flashlights, batteries and generators.

The hardware store, at 1051 N. Berkeley Blvd., has already sold several generators and will receive a final delivery Monday, said Carol Viverette, assistant manager.

The store sold 11 generators this week, including five that will be shipped to the store Monday afternoon. The shipment includes two smaller 3,700-watt generators, which haven't been purchased yet.

"The wholesaler we get them from does not have any more," she said.

The store will continue to receive more water, lamps and lamp oil, batteries, flash lights and extension cords for generators. Many residents have also been filling up propane tanks at the store.

Viverette said residents are preparing earlier for the hurricane than they did for Hurricane Matthew. The earlier shopping is a benefit, as stores are able to restock before the shelves are cleared out, she said.

"They've been preparing since Monday," she said. "It is earlier than normal. I think Matthew took everybody by surprise so everybody is being better safe than sorry."