The pre-hurricane shopping spree has begun.
Area residents are buzzing up and down the aisles of local stores, in search of bottled water, non-perishable foods and generators as Hurricane Sandy tracks toward Monmouth and Ocean counties.
Old Bridge neighbors Teal Baughan and Melisa Takacs took a trip to ShopRite of Aberdeen Friday afternoon to prepare for the storm. Last year during Tropical Storm Irene, their neighborhood managed to maintain power, however the pair are taking the better-safe-than-sorry approach.
"I'm having trouble finding a generator, although I'm not sure I want to spend the money," Baughan said.
The women are taking a calm approach to the storm, but Takacs' 7-year-old son is a little anxious.
"He's very worried. He packed all his toys and a box and got his nightlight and Pillow Pet," she said with a smile, noting that they might 'prepare' tonight by baking some brownies.
Besides gallons of bottled water and foodstuff, anxious homeowners scoured stores in Toms River, Barnegat, Berkeley, Manahawkin, Brick, Point Boro, Lacey, Manchester and elsewhere for generators, fearing blackouts in the path of gale-force winds from the system meteorologists have already dubbed “Frankenstorm.”
The giant Costco in Hazlet on Highway 35 was sold out – “don’t even ask!,” said a harried employee. Sears in Middletown had also run out and was not planning to restock before the storm.
At Home Depot in Hazlet, generators in Aisle 10 were sold out by lunchtime.
Doug Branch of Marlboro was disapponted to discover that, especially because he'd already visited two other home supply stores in his own part of town. He checked out the functions of a power inverter which can take energy from a running car to power a sump pump. "After Irene, my basement was flooded last year," he said. "It took three days to dry it out," he said.
Tom Eddy of Holmdel considered purchasing a $70 battery back-up for his sump pump. There is a high water table where he lives, off Telegraph Hill Road, he said, and his basement floods. He said he already had one at home, but was wondering if prudent to buy another back-up, given the forecast. "We lost power for a couple of hours, and the back-up kept the sump pump working," he said.
Janette Gonzalez of Old Bridge said she would be packing up some delicate items in the $45 worth of plastic storage boxes and shelving she stopped by to pick up in Home Depot. "I'm just hoping its not as bad as Irene," she said, shaking her head.
But Lowe's in Holmdel had generators.
“People began lining up at 6 a.m. [Friday],” said store manager Mark Smith, who marshaled an army of store employees to help out. They walked up and down the queue explaining to customers what they were buying, how to use them and what extension cords to employ.
Men and women, many holding young children, walked slowly to the Lowe’s customer service booth where they paid for the generators in advance. They were to return to the store Saturday morning to pick up the machines which were scheduled to arrive by truck.
“It’s been a steady flow all morning,” added Smith as the clock struck noon. “But it’ll probably pick up a lot more when people come home from work. “
However, there was no way of knowing how long the supply would last.
Was this the heaviest demand he’d ever encountered for generators .
“Nawwwwww,” said Smith with a wry grin. “I’m from New Orleans.”
This story includes photos and reporting contributed by Phil Roura.