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Hurricane Sandy: For some, a rare business opportunity (+video)

Hurricane Sandy may be bad news for homeowners, but contractors, constructions firms, and home supply retailers are seeing an up side to the storm.

By Steven C. JohnsonReuters / October 31, 2012

A cleanup crew works to figure out how to remove power lines and trees off a summer cottage on Lake Webster, New Hampshire after Hurricane Sandy.

Jim Cole/AP


As historic storm Sandy pummeled the US Northeast, knocking out power and crippling transportation in New York City and beyond, the enterprising American spirit was running high - mostly for good, though sometimes leading to accusations of gouging.

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Giovanni Hernandez, a tree surgeon working in affluent MillburnNew Jersey, said demand for his services had reached "madness" levels with hundreds of phone calls from people with damaged trees on their property.

"People want us to show up right away but we can't get there because of all the power lines that are still on the ground," said Hernandez.

Sandy was the largest storm to hit the United States in generations, killing at least 64 people and leaving millions without power. One disaster-modeling company said Sandy may have caused up to $15 billion in insured losses, and many small businesses will have suffered a lot of lost sales.

But on Wednesday - the first day after the storm when people tried to return to some kind of routine - scads of businesses owners, street corner entrepreneurs and, occasionally, good old-fashioned hucksters, were out in force to make the most of a rare business opportunity.

For some, the opportunities were natural and obvious. Bad news for homeowners is simply good news for construction firms and home supply retailers, many of whom have struggled in recent years as US home prices slumped and unemployment rose.

On Manhattan's Upper West SideBeacon Paint & Hardware, a neighborhood staple, was inundated with customers on Wednesday, with long lines to get served.

Gasoline and generators were in big demand across the region, where commuting is a fact of life. The queues at the pump were exacerbated because more than half of all gasoline service stations in the New York City area andNew Jersey were shut because of depleted fuel supplies and power outages, industry officials said.

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