As Hurricane Sandy loomed off the East Coast, some residents of New Jersey were warned toprepare for 7- to 10-day power outages, and portable generators are selling out all up and down the Atlantic Seaboard as people prepare for the worst.
Sandy is expected to combine with a cold front coming from the northwest and a high pressure system from Greenland, fueling it with enough energy to make it more powerful than the "Perfect Storm" from 1991, Hurricane Grace, some meteorologists say.
It is expected to wreak havoc on the East Coast and as far inland as Ohio for 48 to 60 hours with high winds, nearly a foot of rain and up to two feet of snow, ultimately affecting 50 million to 60 million people.
"The predictions on this storm and the damage it could create are dire," said Ron Morano, a spokesman for Jersey Central Power and Light, which issued the dire warning to its customers. "We need to deal with the forecast. We have said throughout that we are preparing for the worst case scenario."
He said JCP&L is expecting downed power lines due to falling trees and tree limbs during the storm, but the potential flooding will make it difficult to get to certain areas to restore power as well.
"The storm is supposed to linger," Morano said. "We're going to be dealing with hurricane force winds for a period that could potentially be almost two days. We can't send people up in bucket trucks if we have winds 70 miles per hour, too."
Each New Jersey power company gave out a slightly different power outage estimate, but the longest outages during Hurricane Irene were seven or eight days, said Greg Reinerk, a spokesman for the state Board of Public Utilities.
"We'd hope we're in a better position this time around, and that we can get crews from out of state quicker," Reinerk said. "It could be up to a week. ... We want people to plan for the worst."
For Generac, a company that makes gasoline-powered portable back-up generators, business has been booming. Generac's CEO, Aaron Jagdfeld, said he's shipped "tens of thousands" of portable generators to the East Coast since Thursday as stores like Lowe's and Home Depot run out of them and order more.
"It's just kind of mayhem right now," Jagdfeld said, adding that his inventory can only help so many people. "You do your best to ship as much as you can, and when you're out, you're out."
Reinerk said gas is less of a problem because the lines are underground. However, gas company websites often advise evacuees and people with flooded basements against turning off their own gas meters. For almost all problems, especially if customers smell gas, they should call their gas providers for help.