questionswhere can you get sandbags before the flood?

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call your local emergency services agency, they may have some, or be able to point you in the right direction.

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Maybe Home Depot no longer carries them, but I've seen them at Home Depot and Lowes - the nylon mesh type.

How about Ace or some other local hardware store?

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There is nothing wrong with using sand in plastic bags. You are just forming a porous barrier that slows the water down. If you are looking for a 'longer term' solution, sand in plastic bags will actually be better because it will take way longer for the plastic to break down than the burlap or natural material that regular sand bags are made out of. If you are concerned about the sand 'breathing' just poke some holes with a pin...sand doesn't need to breathe.

Edit: being that you are from FL, you could just go to the beach with some small trash bags, fill them all with a shovelful, tie them up and be done.

Maybe I'm not understanding what you are trying to do though...that's very very likely. Best of luck!

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Ace Hardware does indeed sell them in a 20-pack.