Storm preparations kicked into gear Thursday along the South Shore as homeowners, businesses and officials responded to warnings about possible power outages and heavy flooding from Hurricane Joaquin early next week.

Stores and shoppers stocked up on flashlights and batteries, and some residents filled their cars' gas tanks and bought fuel for generators, with the lessons and memories of Sandy still fresh nearly three years after the devastation of that October storm.

At Ace Hardware in Massapequa Park, signs out front advertised batteries, flashlights and other emergency supplies. Inside the store, rows of batteries were lined up on a table.

Assistant manager Gary Glass said employees began their morning by stocking supplies for storm prep. He expected sales -- steady so far -- to pick up over the next few days.

"I think everyone now is a little more aware," he said, speaking the response to predictions of Atlantic storms. "People are preparing and not ignoring it."

Nanette Perso, 51, of Lindenhurst, said she had tried to ignore reports of the storm, even keeping her television turned off to avoid the news.

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"I've been hearing, of course, about the storm, but it's almost like I don't want to deal with it," said Perso, whose Pacific Street house sustained extensive damage to the first floor during Sandy.

Then, Thursday afternoon, she came home to find water in the streets -- from the usual tides in nearby Great South Bay, not from any storm -- and talked to a friend busy with preparations.

"I'm a nervous wreck now," said Perso. She is getting help lifting furniture onto cinder blocks and securing her backyard.

Colleen Lisi and her husband John, both 56, also of Lindenhurst, were in preparation mode, too. They returned to their repaired home on South 4th Street a year and a half ago and now are trying to negotiate a price to sell the house to New York Rising.

"We've been here 28 years. It's time to move on," she said.

She added, "Anything can happen. Never say never."

Eye on the storm

In Long Beach, residents were keeping an eye on Joaquin's trajectory.

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"We're not nervous but definitely concerned," said Miguel Ochoa, 30, pulling boogie boards from the back of a car near the beach at Pacific Boulevard and Shore Road to go surfing with his friend Rudy Ling, 33, also of Long Beach. "A lot of my friends live on the first floor" of their buildings, and "they're afraid of losing everything."

Brian McParland, 48, who lives on the bay side in Long Beach, said elevating his home has made him feel safer. But he is still readying his generator and following reports of Joaquin's progress.

"You can't get away from it down here," said McParland, a Long Beach resident for 12 years. "It's all over the news."

At the hardware store in Massapequa Park, Alan Bergen, 60, purchased a red gas can and a yellow extension cord for his generator "just in case."

Fellow shopper Gary Nelson, 59, already had filled his cars with gas and bought fuel for his generator. Before stopping by the hardware store, he'd taken advantage of the swells off the beaches in Long Beach, he said. "I'm a surfer and we love this stuff," he said.

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Long Beach city officials said they weren't taking any risks. Crews worked through the drizzle to build a 10-foot sand berm from Pacific Avenue to New York Avenue to protect the boardwalk.

"We are in full storm-prep mode," city manager Jack Schnirman said.

Clearing storm drains

Residents were being advised to take in or secure outdoor furniture and objects in their yards, and to check the city's website for information, he said, adding crews were clearing storm drains and tying up loose materials at construction sites.

Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto said town workers were checking equipment, cleaning out storm drains, and readying pumps and chain saws.

In "one very obvious departure from the preparation for Sandy," he said, the town had scheduled a meeting Friday with PSEG utility officials -- something that was not done in 2012 with the Long Island Power Authority, which then managed the power grid.

Travel agencies, airlines and cruise lines said they were taking a "wait-and-see" approach, before canceling travel plans to the Caribbean, noting the storm's uncertain path.

"We have not had any cancellations yet," said Carmela Bleich, office manager of Creative Travel/American Express in Huntington.

Marcia Bader, owner of Travel Solutions by Marcia in Baldwin, who specializes in destination weddings, said she had no Caribbean bookings next week. "I steer them away from this week because it's the tail end of hurricane season."

In Amityville, the marine repair shop owned by Marty Mosbacher, 70, is just a house away from the canal. Inside the garage where he works, surrounded by boat engines, he pointed to the water line -- where Sandy's stormwaters came up over the windows. Tropical Storm Irene, in August 2011, left a foot of water in the shop.

"I had no damage from Irene, but Sandy kicked everybody's butt and that is just the way it is," he said.

Lynne Ferrandino, 62, said raising her Lindenhurst home made her feel safe when she was able to move back in last year. But the longtime resident said she feels "guilty" because many others still are vulnerable.

Marilyn Catik, 62, who moved last summer from West Babylon to a recently built home on the Great South Bay in Lindenhurst, spent part of Thursday buying groceries and supplies before the storm.

"You just have to pray that everything will be OK. I love the water, so you take the gamble, the shot, you roll the dice," she said.

Like a true gambler, however, Catik was hoping to come out ahead. "I think it's going to go out to sea," she said.