Stores crowded with people seeking supplies

NASHUA – It seems the only people who found generators Saturday following an ice storm of historic proportions were either unusually lucky or unusually gifted shoppers.

Employees at Aubuchon Hardware on Main Street in Nashua answered the phone by apologizing that the store was out of generators.

It was all hands on deck at Currier P.J. Hardware on Route 101A in Amherst. Kitchen department employees were running the registers Saturday and the store stayed open two extra hours, until 5 p.m., according to kitchen department Manager Gary Jordan.

“It’s been busy all day,” he said. “It’s been an all-day adventure for some customers. The frustration has been setting in.

Currier P.J. also ran out of generators Friday, although mangers were trying to find another shipment. The most popular items Saturday were propane, heaters, flashlights and batteries, Jordan said.

“We just got a delivery of propane this afternoon, which is keeping up going,” he said.

The store was drawing customers from as far away as Nashua, Peterborough and northern Massachusetts, Jordan said.

Merrimack resident Tim Tenhave scoured parts of two states looking for a generator, and by 6 p.m. Saturday was hopeful he had finally tracked one down. He was one of about 50 people on a list at the PepBoys on Amherst Street in Nashua.

Tenhave said he started looking for a generator around 7 a.m. Friday and drove as far as Burlington, Mass., before a friend tipped him off about the shipment PepBoys received Saturday.

“I’m hoping,” he said.

The Home Depot at the Nashua Mall on Broad Street in Nashua had its share of people still looking to get warm.

“Basically, if someone comes out here without power, we can’t help them out too much,” an employee said.

People waited in line for more than an hour Friday to buy the 20-30 generators the store sold, the employee said.

The store was already out of propane, kerosene, generators and heaters, according to the employee.

That meant Steve and Jackie Sennott, of Pepperell, Mass., were out of luck. They were looking for propane and kerosene to power the heaters they have in their basement to ward off frozen pipes.

The Sennotts live in a less dense portion of Pepperell and guessed it would be Wednesday or Thursday before crews got around to restoring power to their part of town.

“I’m looking for heat for the pipes,” Steve Sennott said. “I’m worried about the pipes more than anything.”

Bob Elliot, of Nashua, was shopping for a new pump for his well. The old one was damaged when the power shut off, he said.

“I just got (power) back today,” he said. “Other than that, I did pretty well.”

Elliot was one of the lucky ones out of the hundreds of thousands of people who went without power. He already owned a generator.

If you were selling just the right things – gasoline, generators, takeout food – Friday was a long, hard day.

“We were sold out of generators a half-hour before we opened,” said Darryl Markaverich, a salesman at County Stores in Milford.

In the store, tales were bandied about of people calling Massachusetts as far south as Cape Cod in search of a generator. Somebody heard of a store going to Rhode Island to replenish its stocks.

It’s one thing to own a generator, however, and another thing to get it working.

A frazzled-looking Brad Thompson, of Greenfield, was at County Stores looking for a 20-amp plug to hook a borrowed generator into his breaker box to power his home. None were to be found.

“I need a connector,” he said, speaking over his shoulder as he trotted to his car, heading to Milford Electric on South Street in hopes of success.

In a land littered with broken trees, chainsaws also disappeared fast.

“Gas cans – we’ve been out of those since midmorning,” Markaverich said. “It’s been nuts.”

Those cans were being used at virtually every open gas station in the region as people scrambled to collect enough fuel to keep their home generators running for what looked to be a long stretch without power.

“I’ve been here seven years and this has never happened before,” said Mark Brown, owner of Atech Automotive on Nashua Street in Milford as a line of cars snaked out onto the road, waiting patiently. Most filled up at least one gas can, as well as their tank.

Businesses around the Milford Oval were particularly busy because hardly anybody in the rest of the Souhegan Valley, or even in much of Milford itself, had power Friday. Restaurants were full of people escaping cold homes and lack of stoves.

“Usually on a Friday a lot of people dine – today, it’s a lot of takeout,” said Coco Wang, co-owner with Johnny Zhang of the China Golden restaurant on the Oval.