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Monday, Dec 18, 2017
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Need ice? There are a few, but scarce, options in Tampa Bay

Since stores started reopening after Irma's thrashing across Florida, the hunt for ice has been on and, so far, is showing no signs of easing up.

Among the more than 2.6 million Floridians still without power Thursday are people who say they've spent hours trying to find bagged ice to no avail.

They've driven store to store; gas station to gas station. Most stores are sold out and unsure when they'll be back in stock. Store officials admit it's a problem.

Walmart spokesman Ragan Dickens said ice suppliers in Florida have been closed. Publix has some of its stores still running on generators.

"Because such a huge number of our stores were struggling to meet this incredible demand, we've had trouble keeping it on the shelves," said Publix spokesman Brian West. "At one of our busier stores in Lakeland, we were shipping in these extra supplies as fast as we could only to have them go just as fast. It's been a real challenge for us."

Dickens said Walmart is getting ice shipments from southern Georgia, the Panhandle and South Carolina into Florida.

"We're hoping the ice facilities will get online as soon as possible," he said. "We have trucks moving all hours of the day, but there are still barriers with road closures and flood levels."

To respond to the demand, some restaurants with power are giving out ice. Ferg's Sports Bar in St. Petersburg was handing out 500 pounds of ice donated by radio station WHPT-FM 102.5 The Bone. The restaurant said it still had some left on Thursday morning.

McDonald's and Burger King franchises will also sometimes sell bags of ice.

Some automatic ice kiosks in St. Petersburg are also back to producing ice, including the Penguin Ice House Kiosk at 18th Avenue S and 31st Street, and the 24-hour Ice and Water machine at 66th Street and 82nd Avenue N.

Times staff writer Justine Griffin contributed to this report. Contact Sara DiNatale at [email protected] Follow @sara_dinatale.

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