Lines grow, tempers flare at pumps as gas shortage grows after Sandy

 

Power outages kept many pumps out of service and tough travel made fuel deliveries difficult.

A police officer directed traffic at a Gulf station in Newark, N.J., as a line of vehicles stretched for about two miles. Dozens of people with empty red gas canisters also stood in the line that snaked around the station.

Betty Bethea, 59, had been waiting almost three hours as she approached the front of the line of cars, and she brought reinforcements: Her kids were there with gas cans, and her husband was behind her in his truck. 

“It is crazy out here — people scrambling everywhere, cutting in front of people. I have never seen New Jersey like this,” Bethea said.

Police in New Jersey said they broke up fights at gas stations all day Wednesday, according to the Wayne Patch

“Everyone’s panicking because all their gas tanks are on ‘E,'” one officer was quoted as saying.

Numerous reports of confrontation at the stations that were still open surfaced on Twitter andYouTube.

A fistfight broke out Wednesday between customers at the Getty station on Route 59 in Monsey, N.J., the only functioning station in the area, Chiam Tzik, the station’s manager, told Newsday. On Thursday morning, traffic stretched for at least half a mile on both sides of the road.

In New York state, Yonkers Mayor Michael Spano signed an executive order rationing gas to 10 gallons per customer effective immediately.

New York taxi and car service companies started pulling vehicles off the road as service stations are now out of gasoline or power to run pumps.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy authorized the Metropolitan Transit Authority to waive fares Thursday and Friday as an inducement to get people to take mass transit instead of driving.

In another move to reduce congestion, New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission announced Thursday that HOV restrictions on bridges have been lifted for liveries, “black cars” and taxis.

Taxi drivers are accepting normal metered fares but are also permitted to accept additional passengers during a trip, according to The Wall Street Journal. The Taxi and Limousine Commission suggests $10 per additional passenger, but it’s up to drivers and passengers to negotiate the final amount, the Journal reported.

Zipcar Inc, a car-sharing company that rents out vehicles at an hourly or daily rate, said members late in returning cars in New York because of traffic or fuel shortages would not face the usual charges.

“Any members who are willing to wait in line for fuel, we’re willing to waive any late fees,” said Dan Curtin, Zipcar’s vice president of fleet operations in Boston. The firm is offering members in New York and New Jersey discounts until Friday.

At the heart of the fuel supply crunch is the fact that Sandy has devastated the energy industry’s ability to move fuel into and around the New York City region, particularly the harbor, by any of the three means that normally supply the area: tanker imports from abroad; pipeline shipments from the U.S. Gulf Coast; or refinery production from the mid-New Jersey area. 

The good news is none of these issues appears to be long-lasting. Power is gradually being restored in New Jersey, where much of the key infrastructure is located and New York Harbor barge traffic is expected to resume later Thursday. A key pipeline should resume limited deliveries on Friday. Even flooded refineries should eventually resume production.

The bad news is that the supply crunch may get worse before it gets better. Supplies at gas stations that remained open are running out, and it may be several more days before wholesale fuel supplies get where they need to go. Public Service Enterprise Group Inc, the biggest utility in New Jersey, said it may be up to 10 days to fully restore power. Oil tank trucks are driving three hours to Delaware City to get fuel, but they can only carry up to 9,000 gallons each.

 

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