November 13, 2012

Need a generator? Come back later

Stores won't be restocked for a while after Superstorm Sandy depleted the supply.

By Leslie Bridgers lbridgers@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Maine residents hoping to have a backup power source before the next storm outage are out of luck for now.

click image to enlarge

Hallowell firefighters Rick Seymour, left, and Roy Girard fuel up a generator at the city's station in preparation for the arrival of Hurricane Sandy.

Staff File Photo

Victims of Superstorm Sandy -- and others who decided it was time to be better prepared for outages -- have blown through the nation's supply of generators, wiping out the shelves of local hardware stores.

Home Depot stores in Maine don't expect to have any more in stock for more than a week. The only generator in stock last week at Maine Hardware in Portland was purchased before the storm and returned right after.

Online shoppers aren't likely to have any more luck.

A generator ordered today from Generac Power Systems, one of the largest manufacturers of generators, wouldn't arrive for about a month, said Art Aiello, spokesman for the major national manufacturer.

He said the demand created by Sandy has employees working 24 hours a day in Generac's Wisconsin manufacturing and distribution centers to ship out tens of thousands of units daily, and the company is looking to hire 100 more workers.

Generac's customers are among the 8.5 million who lost power during the superstorm and are ordering portable generators for a quick fix, Aiello said. He said others hope to avoid that situation by getting permanent generators installed at their homes, a common post-storm phenomenon.

"Certainly the awareness level of the need for emergency power is high," Aiello said.

The Home Depot store in Portland sold about 65 generators right around the time the storm hit early last week, said Arthur Gagne, master electrician at the home-improvement chain's Riverside Street location.

After power was restored in Maine, he said, all of the company's Maine stores sent their stock -- including four pallets with a dozen generators each from Portland -- to the mid-Atlantic states, where the storm did the most damage.

"Not for another week and a half, I won't have anything," said Gagne.

Lowe's not only supplied its New Jersey stores with more generators, it also sent 15 managers from its Maine locations to fill in for employees who couldn't get to work themselves, said Bill Bouchard, assistant manager of a Lowe's in Portland.

The Brighton Avenue location has restocked 3,200-watt generators, the size typically used on a construction site, Bouchard said, but only has one 7,000-watt variety "that'll run the basics," like a furnace and refrigerator.

Bouchard said those are coming in sporadically, one or two at a time, and have been sold right away.

Tim Currier, manager of Maine Hardware on St. John Street, said generators aren't typically a big seller for the store, but he has been getting calls from people on the hunt for them in the aftermath of Sandy.

He sold two generators to people with relatives in New Jersey and Connecticut. "They bought them and took them down south," he said.

As it usually does during a major storm, Handyman Rental loaned just about all of the 20 or so generators from its Portland and South Portland stores, said owner Brad Watson.

He keeps a variety of sizes of portable generators in stock, but the most popular sizes during a power outage are in the 5,000-watt range, which rent for about $55 a day or $200 a week.

Portable generators cost several hundred dollars to buy, and permanent residential generators cost several thousand dollars.

Watson said people usually reserve generators from his stores a couple of days before a major weather event is forecasted.

"When a storm of that magnitude is coming, you can tell by the phone calls," he said.

Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at:

lbridgers@pressherald.com

 

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