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Generators in short supply amid storm

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Just as during the June 29 derecho, the power outages caused by Sandy have created an insatiable demand for generators.

Click here for a list of generator safety tips.

Area hardware stores reported a shortage of generators Tuesday. Everything else seemed to be available, although some supplies were limited and visits to several stores might have been required.

No generators were to be found at Lowes Home Improvement Warehouse at the Shops at Trace Fork, said store manager Brad Johnson.

"We are completely out of generators, any type of gas can, batteries, flashlights, that sort of thing," Johnson said. "We are selling a ton of heaters, pre-packaged firewood, ice melt, snow shovels."

Lowe's power has been on and off, but it is equipped with a generator that has the capacity necessary to run the entire store, Johnson said.

Demand for generators was running so high at The Home Depot at Southridge Centre that it was hard to keep up.

"I've got generators coming in, but demand is so huge it's hard to keep them in stock," said Tim Graley, store manager.

He expects another shipment soon. If the supplier expedites it, the next shipment could have come in Tuesday tonight or this morning, he said.

Graley said the store itself has power and has not had any problems.

"We're selling pretty much what you'd expect in a storm like this: A lot of batteries, gas cans, that sort of thing." He said the store still had supplies of those items.

Basic supplies were going fast at Zegeer Hardware at 1421 Washington St. E. in Charleston's East End.

"I'm out of 5-gallon gas cans, lanterns, lights. We do have smaller gas cans in stock. We have lamp oil but no oil lamps," said Richard Zegeer, store owner.

Other items were in varying supply.

"We have tons of ice melt, snow shovels. We have one kerosene heater left. We have electric heaters, natural gas heaters. We have batteries in stock."

A lot of people are asking about generators, but the store has never stocked them, he said.

Zegeer said he received a shipment of supplies Monday evening from a warehouse in Cleveland, Ohio, and was hoping to receive another shipment Tuesday night.

The situation was similar across town at Pile Hardware at 1625 Washington St. W.

"We've sold out of kerosene heaters. We've sold out all of the propane fuel we had," said Bill Pile, owner of the West Side store.

"What's selling really good: lamp oil and lamps, bulk kerosene, which we sell, and most anything that will make heat."

The store still has flashlights but "not a whole lot of lanterns," Pile said. "We still have a good bit of batteries."

As for generators? Better luck next time.

"We're out of generators and don't hope to get any more in real quick. We got online last Thursday and Friday to try to reserve some more from our supplier in Richmond, Va., but apparently some East Coast dealers anticipated the storm ahead of us because the stuff was already gone. We'll try to get more, but I wouldn't want anyone holding their breath.

"I can tell you it is a good day to be in the generator service business," said Pile, who repairs and services lots of generators.

It's already time to restock at Spring Hill Hardware Co., 409 Chestnut St. S.W.

Kelly Francis, owner of the store in the Spring Hill neighborhood of South Charleston, said he and the staff were debating what to do to restock the store.

"We can't get any kind of rush order on anything," he said. The company's supplier is saying that generators and other top-selling items have gone from "in stock" to "zero."

Francis said the staff is discussing whether to get a truck and drive to Kentucky to secure additional supplies or order from suppliers in the Midwest and wait.

"We can't get a straight answer" from suppliers about their inventories because the situation is so dynamic, he said.

Contact writer George Hohmann at or 304-348-4836.


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