After a one-two storm punch that knocked out electricity for days at a time last year, the first whispers Thursday about a hurricane heading our way had local residents scrambling to make sure they would never be without power again.
And high on their list as Hurricane Sandy pounded the Caribbean were portable generators that can power refrigerators, stoves and even whole houses just in case storms knock out electrical service early next week.
Forecasters predict the hurricane will mix with a wintry storm Tuesday morning as it makes landfall in New Jersey or New York City.
Chris Calkins, owner of Calkins Electric LLC in East Lyme, said Thursday that he had five calls for generator jobs in the previous 24 hours.
"Once people hear about a storm heading toward the Bahamas, I start getting phone calls," Calkins said. "I can predict the weather by the number of calls. I don't even have to watch The Weather Channel."
Calkins, who was without electricity himself for eight days last year, said he installed about 70 generators in 2011, when the state was hit with Tropical Storm Irene in August and with a nor'easter in October.
Calkins pointed out that for some people -- such as the 93-year-old on an oxygen tank for whom he completed an installation Thursday -- generators can be a necessity. But most people are simply looking to avoid the inconvenience of an extended period without heat, hot water and major appliances.
Of course, a life of convenience will cost you. A typical generator installation runs about $1,500 -- $2,500 for those who haven't already purchased a generator themselves, Calkins said.
"I'll be working over the weekend," he said. "A lot of people don't call until 48 hours before (a big storm)."
Workers at local hardware stores agreed that the biggest rush for batteries, generators and other storm-related gear likely will happen Saturday. But at Cash True Value in East Lyme, at least three generators moved out the door Thursday, and customers already were stocking up on other items as well.
"The flashlight aisle is looking a little scarce," sales associate Eric Sasman said. "We've sold a lot of batteries, a lot of gas cans."
Bill Johnson Jr., a manager at Johnson's Cash True Value in Groton, said the stampede for storm-related items doesn't usually begin until a couple days before a storm is due to hit.
Kevin Schmitt, manager of the store's Taylor Rental business, said he already has received several phone calls about generators and had sold a few Thursday. But it will be hard to match last year's deluge of calls, when he had to put in three additional orders of 30 or more generators to handle the demand.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Thursday asked residents to prepare for the storm by assembling a basic emergency kit and developing a family emergency plan.
"Some (forecast) models predict that Sandy may move onshore somewhere in New England early next week," Malloy said in a statement. "Although we are not certain the storm will impact the state, we need to be prepared."
Norwich Public Utilities said Thursday that a briefing of city emergency officials by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration indicated the region would start feeling the impact of Hurricane Sandy sometime Sunday. But it is too early to determine the storm's exact track or severity, the utility said.
"Crews are prepared to handle whatever issues arise from this storm," John Bilda, NPU general manager, said in a statement.
A spokesman for Connecticut Light & Power Co., which was buffeted by severe criticism over delayed response times and inadequate cleanup crews during last year's storms, said the utility was moving quickly to make sure that up to 2,000 line workers from the Midwest would be in place Sunday if the hurricane barreled through the state.
"We're still closely monitoring forecasts," CL&P spokesman Mitch Gross said.
"The past year has been all about improving storm response," added Bill Quinlan, CL&P senior vice president of emergency preparedness, in a statement.
Calkins, the East Lyme electrician, said response times would be helped if all the do-it-yourselfers who try to hook up generators either learned the proper method or hired licensed professionals. He said -- and CL&P spokesman Gross confirmed -- that some workers had to go house-to-house disconnecting improperly installed generators that could have electrocuted linemen because of "back feed" caused by the failure to install a transfer switch.
"It could be extremely dangerous," Gross said. "An improperly installed generator could injure or kill a line worker. ... In some places (last year), we had to shut down our trucks and listen for the generators."
(c)2012 The Day (New London, Conn.)
Visit The Day (New London, Conn.) at www.theday.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services
BEFORE YOU GO
11/04/2012 12:26 AM EDT
PHOTO: A Marathon Wedding Proposal, Minus The Marathon
HuffPost's Katie Bindley reports:
Like all the competitors who trained for the 2012 NYC Marathon, Hannah Vahaba will not be running the race this year. But she also will never forget her moment at the finish line. After traveling in from Atlanta, Vahaba picked up a marriage proposal in Central Park on Saturday without having to traverse the 26.2-mile course.
"This is my fiance," said Vahaba, 31, who had tears running down her face as she stood in Central Park where the race would have ended, just moments after Martin O'Donoghue had proposed.
Photo by Damon Scheleur
11/04/2012 12:25 AM EDT
Check Donation Lists
Be sure to check donation lists to see what items are needed. For example, at one Staten Island donation center, there is a critical need for batteries batteries batteries, candles, matches, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, pet food, baby supplies, deodorant, shampoo and conditioner. Clothing isn't needed as much at that center.
-Catharine Smith, HuffPost
11/03/2012 10:42 PM EDT
Brooklyn Regions Still Lack Electricity, Heat and Water Days After Storm
HuffPost's Tim Stenovec reports:
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which killed at least 48 people in New York when it battered the Northeast last week, frustrated residents in this corner of South Brooklyn are coping without electricity, heat and running water.
11/03/2012 10:18 PM EDT
On Long Island, Cuomo demands Accountability from Utilities
At a massive food distribution event at Republic Airport in Farmingdale, Cuomo said power has been restored to 60 percent of the New York metropolitan area.
LIPA reported Saturday evening that 460,000 customers remained without power, down from more than 900,000 initially.
"I've warned the utility companies repeatedly they operate under a state charter, essentially," Cuomo said. "The utility companies are not happy with my warning and frankly, I don't care."
"The customers are not happy. The bill payers are not happy and the people without power are not happy," Cuomo said. "People are suffering. It is an issue of safety and if the utilities were not prepared we will hold them accountable."
Read the full story on Huntington Patch.
11/03/2012 9:38 PM EDT
Gasoline Shortage Likely To Last For Several More Days
Even as power returns to parts of the region assailed by Hurricane Sandy, millions of drivers seeking gasoline appear likely to face at least several more days of persistent shortages.
11/03/2012 8:50 PM EDT
Behind @ConEdison: The 27 Year-Old Preventing Panic, One Tweet At A Time
HuffPost's Bianca Bosker:
On Saturday, 27-year-old Kate Frasca was manning Con Edison’s Twitter account, @ConEdison, responding to customers’ frustrations, questions, praise and criticism at an average clip of one tweet every six minutes.
11/03/2012 8:35 PM EDT
Estimate Says 600 Million Gallons Of Water Hit Mass Transit System
@ USACE_HQ :
Roughly 600 M gallons of storm water infiltrated the nation’s busiest and oldest underground mass transit system... http://t.co/5jMXDhRc
11/03/2012 8:15 PM EDT
$12 Million Donated So Far To NYC Mayor's Fund For Recovery
@ MikeBloomberg :
If you would like to donate: visit http://t.co/9w8egqxD So far $12 million has been contributed. 100% of funds go to #Recovery efforts.
11/03/2012 7:52 PM EDT
Don't Touch Downed Power Lines
@ usNWSgov :
Post #Sandy reminders: never touch a downed power line or anything touching one. Washing your hands prevents illness. #NWS #CDC