Is it just me, or has this question been answered at great length? How about Googling "generator recommendations and advise" and getting back more good information than one could ever hope for?
One thing that is rarely mentioned is how much gas is needed to run a generator, assuming you're not paying out thousands for a diesel unit. If an ice storm hits the northeast and there's a massive power outage, where's all that gas going to come from to power all those appliances you wish to power?
We went without power for 15 days after Hurricane Charlie tore our place apart. I ran a 10 hp coleman and could only get 5 hours out of 5 gallons of gas, so we ran it 5 hours and roughed it until the next evening. If you plan on getting gas out of your vehicles, invest in a good quality siphon pump. I bought a cheap $10 one and it leaked badly.
What most people don't consider is that during these times of emergency, not only is gas scarce or not available, but if there are some gas stations open, everybody and his brother is there trying to get gas. It was a major pain getting gas in our area during that time.
I know people who have big generators properly set to be switched into the house breaker box, all set for that big disaster.......but they are lucky to have 2 1/2 gallons of gas hanging around! It's like whistling through through the graveyard.
After the 3 major hurricane's (Charlie, Frances and Jean) passed us by within a few weeks and caused all kinds of havoc, I went out and bought a smaller, more quality Honda 2500 watt unit that will run much longer on scarce gas. In a real emergency you'd be surprised how much power you _really_ need. I've been there/done that and would rather have 12 hours of 2500 watts than 5 hours of 5000 watts assuming gas is precious.
If you go without power for days in a real emergency, A generator is just part of your need. Plan on storing a lot of gas. Keep yourself stocked with food and water. ' If a disaster strikes, trust me- there will be no food, water, batteries or any other related necessities available on any store shelf, assuming any store will be open. You had better have those things beforehand.
One thing that was helpful to us during many days of power outage was the many rechargable flashlights and batteries I had (from my dewalt and makita tool kits). They give you great light for many hours, and can be charged during the time the generator is running.
An important investment for anyone wanting a generator would be the great rechargable flashlights that go with cordless drill kits. You can buy these flashlights separately and the batteries separately if you don't want the drill. I have the Craftsman, Makita and Dewalt flashlights and they were priceless when we needed light during those 15 days without power we had.
I know I've spouted out too much but only because I "lived" this generator question in a real life disaster, with my home and property badly trashed on top of it, along with my part of the state.
A generator is great, but it's only a part of the survival puzzle.