A shortage of boilers and parts has slowed work to restore heat to homes damaged by Sandy on Long Island, according to homeowners, plumbers and plumbing supply officials.
"I've never seen anything like it in 32 years," said Tom Simonetti, manager of Hicksville's Blackman Plumbing Supply.
With so many homes losing boilers to Sandy's floodwaters, the demand for new ones has overwhelmed supply, according to Simonetti.
"The whole south shore needs a boiler. It's crazy," he said.
A line of contractors hunting boilers and parts has become a constant at Blackman, one of New York's largest supplier of plumbing parts. Plumber Todd Medeiros said he waited two and a half hours Tuesday morning for a small copper fitting the store didn't have. Phones there have also been ringing off the hook with calls from frustrated contractors and homeowners.
"Are you going to calm down?" a customer service worker asked one irate caller Tuesday. The boiler the man had ordered had not yet come in.
Seaford homeowner Jim Quinn said, "They told me they could get me a boiler but it wouldn't be until Dec. 12. They can't manufacture them fast enough to get them to us."
Homeowners are also losing patience with plumbers, Medeiros said as he installed a new boiler in a Seaford home.
"It's daunting task to find what we need and people need to understand that," he said. "The word needs to get out there."
Until the demand is met and heat is restored, homeowners like Jim Quinn won't be able to return home. For now, the longtime Seaford homeowner is staying with his son in Levittown.
Lack of heat has also forced Paul Hastings out of his Seaford home. Calls in search of a boiler have turned up nothing. So on Tuesday morning, he stopped at a FEMA site, seeking help there. Officials could not help, Hastings said.
"There's a cog in the wheel," he said. "No equipment to replace the old equipment."
Large deliveries of boilers are headed to Long Island, said Simonetti. But the shortage may still not be fully resolved for several weeks, according to Medeiros.