Power being restored in RI as cleanup continues
CHARLESTOWN, R.I. (AP) — Jake Tschudy wasn’t about to let a storm pass him by.
The Taunton, Mass., resident had his mobile business — a truck full of gas-powered generators — parked Wednesday at a miniature golf place along Route 1 in Charlestown, where many residents were still without power following superstorm Sandy.
Before the storm hit, Tschudy, who works at an auction house, bought 70 brand new Hyundai generators in two sizes from the manufacturer. He was selling them Wednesday for $699 and $1,399 a pop. He said the auction house does this whenever the weather turns bad and he had sold three generators in that spot, four by the time he was done talking to a reporter, after selling 22 earlier in the day in Newport.
‘‘Wherever the storms hit, we buy a lot of generators,’’ he said, adding that whatever doesn’t get sold on the side of the road goes to the auction block.
Power outages and impassable roads remained the chief challenges as Rhode Island cleaned up following the storm, which uprooted trees, downed power lines and sent tidal surges into coastal neighborhoods. Some 35,000 utility customers remained without electricity Wednesday, down from a peak of 122,000 immediately after the storm. Natural gas outages in Westerly and Newport continued to affect 700 customers.
Residents of Westerly’s Misquamicut community were kept away from their properties for a second day as crews removed downed power lines and tons of sand making roads impassable. Town officials said the first residents will be allowed back in starting Thursday.
Federal Emergency Management Agency teams planned to begin assessing damage Thursday in the state’s hardest-hit areas, according to Nick Russo, FEMA’s coordinating officer in Rhode Island. Property owners were urged to contact their insurance companies and photograph damage in preparation for any potential federal assistance.
Most schools have resumed classes, though districts in Westerly, Narragansett and South Kingstown remained closed Wednesday. Westerly also postponed Halloween festivities, asking residents to wait until Saturday to trick or treat to avoid the dangers of downed tree limbs and darkened neighborhoods.
National Grid hoped to eliminate most outages by Thursday and any remaining ones by week’s end.
South Kingstown Town Manager Stephen Alfred said: ‘‘We’re hopeful we can get things turned around in the next 24 hours. It’s still a very difficult situation here, but we’re putting the pieces back together.’’
Gov. Lincoln Chafee was one of those without power. He said he showered Wednesday morning at the home of a neighbor who had a generator.
Tschudy sold generators for about three weeks after Hurricane Katrina, and last year he followed Hurricane Irene from Atlanta all the way to Maine.
‘‘This year’s better,’’ he said. ‘‘This storm got a lot of hype.’’
Hurricane Sandy, after killing scores of people in the Caribbean, streamed northward, merged with two wintry weather systems Monday and socked the U.S. Northeast, mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes with wind, waves, rain and snow.
Tschudy said it’s better to have generators and not need them than to not have them and need them.
David Bannon, an insurance estimator from Westerly, lost power for about six hours. He pulled up to take a look. He was considering buying a generator for his in-laws, who live in a wooded area and still were without electricity.
‘‘They’re definitely a hot commodity,’’ he said.
In the Wakefield area of South Kingstown, Phil’s restaurant remained open thanks to a couple of generators humming outside while other restaurants were closed.
‘‘We've been busy,’’ said the owner, Ken Tetzner, who has had the place for 15 years. ‘‘Nobody has power, and people have to eat.’’
The restaurant lost power Monday afternoon but was open as usual Tuesday morning, attracting lines out of the door. The grills were running on propane. Tetzner, who was without power at home, used a headlamp and lanterns to cook by.
The menu was limited, and the coffee was made the old-fashioned way — by boiling water — but customers were patient.
‘‘It’s like community service,’’ said Tetzner’s mother, Sue, during the lunch shift Wednesday.
Tetzner said they'd run the generators and serve breakfast and lunch as long as the power was out, though he hoped it would be back on soon.
‘‘We’re just waiting,’’ he said.
Associated Press writer David Klepper in Cranston contributed to this report.