By Bill Kirk and Dustin Luca Staff writers
---- — NORTH ANDOVER — Batteries. Flashlights. Stand-up lanterns.
All or mostly gone.
Generators? Fugetaboutit. Ace Hardware on Route 114 in North Andover sold its last two generators earlier this week. And the New York warehouse that distributes to the hundreds of Ace stores throughout New England is also out of them.
For an area that’s been devastated over the last few years by power-crippling ice storms, floods, and last year’s October blizzard, many local retailers are saying people are buying supplies in preparation of Hurricane Sandy’s arrival at a feverish pitch.
But is it just a hyped panic? Or is the threat real?
“This has the makings of a natural disaster,” Martin Murray, spokesman for utility Public Service of New Hampshire, said. “We all, as individuals, have to be prepared for the possibility for dealing without services, including power, for several days.”
Currently, the storm is moving over the Atlantic Ocean as a hurricane. Several weather models project the storm will move along the east coast until it passes North Carolina, at which point it’s expected to move northwest towards New Jersey.
Even with that track, damage is expected to be significant. The storm will lose strength as it hits land, but it will merge with a northern jet stream. The contrast between warm, tropical air and colder Canadian air “will significantly intensify the storm as it moves up the east coast,” according to Eric Sinsabaugh, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine.
After that, “it’s going to close off over the Northeast and, once that happens, it pretty much becomes stationary,” Sinsabaugh said. “It’s not going to show a lot of movement between Tuesday and Thursday.”
The storm is “pretty much going to trash the whole week,” he said.
The height of wind speeds will be felt beginning Monday night and continue throughout Tuesday, with wind and rain slowing down through to Thursday, Sinsabaugh said. At the storm’s peak, sustained winds will be as low as 20 to 30 miles per hour, with gusts as high as 50 to 60 miles per hour.
Some aren’t taking any chances. At the Home Depot on the Loop in Methuen, Jim and Edith Harvey of Andover bought the last generator on the store floor at about 11 a.m.
The store wasn’t expecting another delivery of 35 units until after midnight today.
“We actually pre-ordered this a couple of weeks ago because of last year’s Halloween storm,” Jim Harvey said. “Then we heard about this storm. So the timing for us was fantastic.”
He said that during last year’s late-October snowstorm, their house lost power for two days, which is difficult because Edith works at home.
“We’re not taking any chances this year,” he said, adding that the outage was also difficult on their two children.
While they are getting the generator too late for an electrician to hook it up, the $1,000-unit, a GP7500E, is capable of producing 7,500 watts of power and can be used to power individual appliances, such as their refrigerator, wood-stove blower and sump pump.
Employees of the store said the Harveys were lucky.
“Everybody’s been calling about generators,” said Mike Gray, who works in the electrical department. He said he was telling them to call back later, to find out when the delivery was being made. Home Depot trucks were fanning out across the Northeast yesterday delivering the generators, but they couldn’t come fast enough.
“We were selling $2,000 generators like they’re packs of gum,” said Dave Iannucillo, who works in the hardware department. “Yesterday (Thursday) by 10:30 a.m., they were all gone.” So the Methuen store ordered some more units from another store, and they sold out just as fast.
“People are nervous,” he said. “They’re getting batteries, extension cords, wet/dry vacs and cases of water.”
Ace cashier France Levesque said Friday morning the store saw a flurry of activity, with people buying salt to melt the ice and snow, which is forecast. Also prominently displayed in the store were power-shovels.
“Hopefully they (forecasters) are wrong,” she said, as the line queued up at the busy store. “It keeps us busy, though.”
Things were a little slower over at Arthur Sharp’s Hardware on Middlesex Street in Bradford, said owner Pat Lane. He said he expected things to get even busier today.
“It depends on the forecast,” he said. “Once people start remembering last year’s storm, it will pick up.”
Getting ready for Sandy *Prepare a kit, including flashlights, batteries, a battery-powered radio, water, canned goods, medications and more. A well-stocked kit should last through three days of no phone or power service. *Clear storm drains and catch basins in front of property to help prevent flooding. *Clear yard of lawn furniture or other items which can cause damage if blown over or around. *Pay attention to weather reports. *Develop emergency plans for your family, including your pets. Know where the local shelters are. Have contact information, vital records, and insurance papers at the ready.