Despite today’s scary winter forecast, Steve Wilburn of Ada is breathing easy. He has a 20-kilowatt built-in generator installed at his home, which kicks in if he loses power. "Though farmers and others around here hate to hear me say it, I just love the snow,” he said. While Wilburn settles in to enjoy a possible winter storm, other Oklahoma consumers are scrambling to find portable generators, which have all but disappeared from retailers’ shelves in the Oklahoma City metro area. By midmorning Wednesday, Lowe’s on Second Street in Edmond was sold out. Several stores had few left, while others are awaiting emergency shipments. "We had four this morning, but we sold them all between 8 and 11,” said Vickie Atwood, administrative manager of the Ace Hardware at 2119 NW 23. By noon, the store had only the display model, a 5-kilowatt generator that sells for $700. "We’ve been so busy that there’s been no chance to even look up,” Atwood said. Other customers, she said, are buying snow melt, snow shovels, gas cans and more. Larry Hair, general manager of Steve’s Wholesale, guesses they’ve sold several hundred units across the company’s six Oklahoma City and two Tulsa stores. Depending on size, generators cost from $350 to $1,000, he said. "Folks are pouring in from everywhere looking at them,” he said. By 6 p.m., Steve’s largest store at 8100 S Santa Fe had sold all but one of its 50 generators, assistant manager Rick Trybulski said. The remaining unit is a reconditioned 6.25-kilowatt Yamaha generator, priced at $1,100. Central Power Equipment in Warr Acres had only about a dozen generators left early Wednesday, co-owner Chris Montgomery said. Since Tuesday, he’d sold 75. "It’s been a lot of fun; we like it,” Montgomery said. "The more weathermen scare people, the more we sell.” O'Connors Lawn and Garden, 2244 NW 140, has sold the 100 generators it had in stock, Sean O’Connor said. But more than 100 customers have prepaid for one of about 650 generators O’Connor is having trucked in from Dallas, Louisiana and Chicago by today. "We’re trying to get them all here by 10 Thursday morning,” O’Connor said.
Generator safetyRetailers urge generator buyers to read instruction manuals front to back. To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, units must remain outdoors. Do not plug units directly into the meter. That can be deadly for utility electricians who may believe the line is dead.