People in the southeastern United States are facing a potential disaster as Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm that is the strongest in the Atlantic in decades, is barreling towards Florida. The hurricane has already devastated islands in the Caribbean like St. Maarten and Barbuda, and is beginning to hit Puerto Rico Wednesday evening. The massive storm — close to the size of Ohio — is expected to hit the state of Florida later in the week, and residents are preparing for the worst. Already there are reports of Florida supermarkets running out of water before Hurricane Irma.
The Miami New Times searched five different stores Tuesday night, finding all of them out of stock on basic bottled water (though some still had some of those fancy smart waters left). Since FEMA preparation guidelines recommend half a gallon of water for each person, every day, and the devastation of Irma could leave residents without access for days, it will be essential for those in the path of the storm to prepare with enough water. If you're someone trying to help those in the southeast in advance of what could be the worst national disaster since at least last week, you might be wondering if it's worth trying to deliver water to residents down there through the mail yourself.
For the most part, it doesn't look like that's a good plan. First of all, many of the stores are expecting restocks in the coming days. And those in Florida who are trying to get deliveries of water from Amazon or other online retailers won't get them any faster if they're ordered by you instead of them (though it looks doubtful that deliveries will even be able to make it to Florida before the weekend.
There's also a much simpler solution, which is to get water from exactly the same source that many Florida residents usually get their water when there isn't a hurricane — from the tap. As of yet, there is no interruption in plumbing systems in Florida, and if water can be properly stored (see some instructions here on how to do it properly), there's no reason any Floridians should have to shell out for bottled water when they could use the good old regular folk water that comes out of the faucet.
One thing that Florida residents should make sure they have in preparation for the oncoming storm, however, is bleach. If there's an issue with water, and you're not sure if it's drinkable, bleach is an effective way to purify water easily. Adding just 1/8 of a teaspoon (or about 16 drops) of regular, nothing fancy added bleach to a gallon of water is enough to kill bacteria in it.
If you're outside of Florida and want to help the people getting ready for the storm, rather than buying them water, you're probably better off donating to one of the many charities providing Hurricane relief.