By Burton Speakman
and Jamison Cocklin
Action began at local stores when weather reports started about a major storm battering the East Coast.
On Saturday a run began on purchasing generators, with it becoming increasingly difficult — if not impossible — to find and buy one.
Those preparing for the storm also are buying D batteries, sump pumps, sump-pump batteries, flashlights, chain saws and even tarps.
The Mahoning Valley is under a high-wind warning through 4 p.m. today and a flood watch through this evening, according to the National Weather Service.
Do-Cut in Boardman has sold 20 to 25 generators in the past couple of days and has 40 ordered, said Dante Terzigni Sr., company president.
“Honda has trucks already full, ready to ship to areas if there is a weather event,” he said. “If the event hits here we would be one of those stores, and we’ll sell the generators right off the back of the truck.”
The company has to wait until the weather events occur to determine where to send resources, Terzigni said.
“Chain saws have also been selling,” he said. “It’s because the ground is already saturated, and that makes the roots of trees weaker and more likely to fall over in the wind.”
The last generator at Bernard Daniels in Canfield was sold to a man who was taking it to his daughter in South Carolina, said Bill Clark, store manager.
Officials with the Ohio Emergency Management Agency are warning residents across the state not to underestimate the effects Hurricane Sandy will have on Ohio, especially in the Northeast.
“We can anticipate strong winds — that’s exactly what the National Weather Service and meteorologists are predicting for this part of the country,” said Tamara McBride, a spokeswoman with the OEMA. “That means downed power lines and debris. Residents need to be diligent and have battery-powered radios, flashlights and things like that ready. If nothing happens, then great — but it’s better to be prepared.”
The NWS is predicting sustained winds anywhere from 30 to 40 mph, with gusts up to 70 mph through Tuesday night.
“With winds this high, the severity of power outages increases,” said Mark Durbin, spokesman for First Energy. “Trees and tree limbs can be blown onto our equipment, but we have crews and extra equipment in place to address those situations as they happen.”
Durbin advised First Energy customers to call 1-888-544-4877 if they lose power. The number will connect customers to an automated reporting service that helps speed the company’s power-restoration response in areas hardest hit by outages.
Planning has not just been limited to those looking for household items or at electric utilities. Joe Richards, store manager at Rulli Bros. in Austintown, said people have been coming to the store and purchasing canned food, milk, bread and batteries.
“We’ve sold quite a bit of bottled water as well,” he said.
The store took precautions and stocked extra when the staff learned about the weather reports, Richards said.
At the Home Depot in Boardman, customers started coming in Friday to purchase generators. The store has since sold out of sump-pump batteries and believes it could sell out of sump pumps, said Rick Cline, an assistant manager there.
Brian Heckert, manager of Lowe’s in Boardman, said he has seen similar sales.
“We sold 20 generators over the weekend. Then we got 17 more in [Monday] and they’ve all been sold,” he said about 12:30 p.m. Monday.
People are buying pretty much everything they can for an emergency and for yard cleanup after a big storm, Heckert said.
Martin Cohen, owner of Mickey’s Army Navy Store, said rain gear has sold quickly at his location in Warren, but other supplies such as wind-up radios and ready-to-eat meals are fully stocked. He added that his suppliers from Virginia up to New England were “literally not picking up their phones.”
The storm triggered a series of evacuations in low-lying coastal areas from Maryland to Connecticut, but there is potential for flooding in Youngstown, too.
Officials with the OEMA are cautioning any driver who approaches a flooded road to turn around and go the other way. Those on foot should do the same and head for higher ground if they’re immediately threatened by flooding.