Gas Shortages Add To Frustration In Storm-Hit Areas
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
There are people in New Jersey and New York who are beginning to get back to work. And they're facing another problem: how to get gas for their vehicles to make that commute. Because of widespread power outages, most of the gas stations in the region fall into one of two categories: They have power, but no gasoline, or they have gasoline, but no power to pump it into cars.
As NPR's Greg Allen reports, that leaves a small number of gas stations with very, very long lines.
GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Like thousands of motorists in New York and New Jersey, Eddie Pruchnick spent much of his day looking for gas. He started at 6AM. Three hours later, he was still waiting, a long line in Brooklyn.
EDDIE PRUCHNICK: I was up in the Bronx. I couldn't find any gas in the Bronx, couldn't find any in Yonkers. And I just took a chance. I got on this line.
ALLEN: From Long Island to Central Jersey, a wave of panic has gripped motorists who want to get back to work, but need gas to do so. An estimated three-quarters of the gas stations in North Jersey were shut down again yesterday, many because they don't have the electricity needed to power their pumps. Others with gas have found an intense demand that often requires police intervention. Police stepped in to stop fights and impose order at gas stations throughout New York and New Jersey.
At a station with gas in Brooklyn yesterday, motorist Jessica Laura described the scene there.
JESSICA LAURA: It was chaos. People were fighting over here. People were fighting over there. People were coming through the wrong way. It was chaos. Then the cops came, and they just started organizing it.
ALLEN: As gas station needles drop toward E, gas hunters have turned to Twitter, posting news of what stations are open where. But that news has a short shelf life. I rushed to an Exxon station said to have gas only to discover they'd run out two hours earlier. Owner Walid Nabath said he was expecting more gas at any moment.
WALID NABATH: Now I'm trying to call them to know what time we're going to get the gas delivery.
ALLEN: Would you expect a delivery today?
NABATH: I wish. I hope so.
(SOUNDBITE OF PHONE RINGING)
NABATH: But we don't know. You know, the phone can't stop.
(SOUNDBITE OF PHONE RINGING)
ALLEN: Officials say there's not a gas shortage, but there is a problem with gas distribution.
Sal Risalvato, who heads a group that represents New Jersey gas retailers, says nearly every gas distribution terminal in North Jersey - the places where tank trucks fill up - are offline because they don't have power.
SAL RISALVATO: Delivery trucks are having to go either to Pennsylvania, and they are also having to travel down to South Jersey to the terminals that are stationed along the Delaware River across from Philadelphia.
ALLEN: That has substantially slowed down gasoline deliveries to retailers. Risalvato believes the situation will improve over the weekend as power is restored to more gas stations and to the distribution terminals. In the meantime, it's making it tough for people like Rob Mangum. He was at Nabath's Exxon station, waiting for the next gas delivery. To wait for gas, Mangum said, he was forced to take time out from his work delivering food for Meals on Wheels.
ROB MANGUM: We're out right now trying to find gas. If we won't get gas today, we won't be able to deliver tomorrow. I got food in my truck right now, but it's more important to have gas, or they won't be eating tomorrow, either.
ALLEN: At a Hess station not far away in Irvington, I arrived just as a tank trunk pulled in with a gasoline delivery. It was a good thing. More than 200 people were there waiting in line with gas cans. An undetermined number of cars stretched around several blocks. At the head of the line wearing a relaxed smile after a four-hour wait in his Toyota Camry was Tim McPleasant. He said he wanted to fill it up, but at this point he wasn't particular.
TIM MCPLEASANT: Hopefully.
ALLEN: Hopefully they'll let you go. You'll take whatever they'll give you, right?
MCPLEASANT: Whatever they give me, 'cause I'm - see, I'm on E. No complaints right now.
ALLEN: It's an odd side effect of Sandy's aftermath. Rarely has filling your gas tank felt so good. Greg Allen, NPR News, Lyndhurst, New Jersey. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.