Power, Transit Problems Drive Lines at the Pumps

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Waiting on line to pay cash for gas to fill gas cans at the Hess station on Union St. and 4th Ave. in Brooklyn Waiting on line to pay cash for gas to fill gas cans at the Hess station on Union St. and 4th Ave. in Brooklyn (Amy Pearl/WNYC)

Around the metropolitan area, drivers are lining up at gas stations for hours on end to fill up. More people are traveling by car because of limited mass transit and many are buying gas to fuel generators after losing power. 

New Jersey Public Radio's Nancy Solomon says she didn't see a single station open as she drove around towns like Orange, Maplewood and Union on Thursday.

“The primary problem seems to be power,” she said. “Some gas stations are out of gas, so they can't pump the gas, so everything is connected to everything.”

In Morristown, New Jersey,  WNYC’s Bob Hennelly saw just as many people standing in line for generator fuel as drivers idling in hopes of filling up their tanks.

“One island is for individuals walk-up business, if you will. Cash and carry,” he explained. “There's a whole new protocol for how to stand in those lines. So you'll see people in their suburban finery holding ten gallon gasoline containers and some of them two and three at a time and at the same time there will be another island with a line, a queue of cars.”

No matter which line you're in, it was taking about two and a half hours to get to the front. And that seemed to be the case around the region.

WNYC's Janet Babin was at a Hess station in Park Slope, Brooklyn, where she says hundreds of cars are lined up for blocks, many coming from outside the neighborhood.

“One person told me she came in from Hoboken, another person was there for Staten Island. Other people came in from Queens. People are coming from all over, to Brooklyn, to get gasoline,” she said.

But coming to Brooklyn didn’t ensure a victory in the battle to get to the pump on the first try. Elana Snow of Hoboken started her search in Williamsburg.

“I went to three or four different gas stations there, and one the line was too long and people were backing up the opposite way down the street so you couldn't get to the gas station,” she said.

She finally ended up at that Hess in Park Slope, where a handful of police officers were doing their best to manage the chaos of traffic around the station. WNYC's Amy Pearl was there too.

“I tried to ask the gas station operator if she was expecting another shipment of gas anytime soon, and at first she was very unable to talk and very stressed out because she wasn't able to accept cash transactions because her system was down,” Pearl recalled. “But she, working on the phone with somebody was able to get that back up, and a little cheer went up along the line ‘She's taking cash. Come back. Oh, you got off the line. Come back. She's taking cash!’"

(Photo: The line for gas spread in all directions at the Hess station on Union St. and 4th Ave. Amy Pearl/WNYC)

On Long Island, gas attendant Omar Qurushi says he's never seen anything like this rush for gas.

“I remember when the gas prices went to $4 for the first time, people used to go crazy. You know, when we had some sales and that type of stuff,” he said, “but not like this, not all, because you know especially Long Island, people are running generators…everybody just wants a little bit of gas, two gallons, to run their generators for power.”

Elected officials have taken note of the shortage. 

Senator Charles Schumer says the gas crisis will end in a day or two because New York Harbor and the ports have now opened after being shut down for safety reasons.

“These boats, ships, tankers will be able to go through, they'll be able to land. They'll be able to unload their gasoline loads onto trucks which will go to the gas stations that people need,” he said.

But it the crisis won't be completely over until the power is back on, so some stations have power to actually pump the gas.  It could be days in some areas like Lower Manhattan, and perhaps as long as 10 days in other areas.

AAA issued a list of stations in New Jersey and Long Island reporting that they had gas as of early Thursday afternoon.  Check  with the station, however, before heading out.


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Comments [5]

Myles G. from Brooklyn

I just heard a piece on WNYC using 3 hours as an example of a very long wait for gas in the area, and I just had to comment. Yesterday, I sat in line for 11 hours! I live in Kensington, Brooklyn, and there were no gas stations with gas early yesterday morning, but a Hess on Coney Island Ave and Ditmas had a several-block-long line forming because of a rumor that a tanker would arrive soon. A friend of mine got in the line at 4am. I got in the line at 6:30am. The tanker finally arrived around 9:30, fueling began around 10:30, and it ended up taking my friend 10 hours and it took me 11 hours to get to the pumps. Apparently, a second line had formed at some point (and maybe others?), so that definitely added to the problem. The police ended up guiding traffic starting a few blocks from the station, as well as at the station. I saw at least four cars try to cut the line when I was waiting to turn into the station. Unbelievable.

Nov. 03 2012 10:59 AM
Neil Houston from Little Silver, New Jersey

Bravo to Mr Cuomo's comments over the last few days especially reagrding the chronic lack of investment to infrastructure :overhead powerlines are a dickesnion anachronism folks; and holding the monopolistic utility companies, given licence to supply by the state, accountable.
As a resident of New Jersey I hope to hear the same from Mr. Christie, if not now at some stage...

Nov. 02 2012 11:36 AM

In NJ, the line to one gas station was around a mile long. Police were helping, but it reduced a two lane multiple intersection road to a 20 minute delay. They were the only of 10 gas stations on the route to have any. Route 1-9 going into Bergen County, Tunnelle Road before Broad. Line begins at Fairview Ave.

Nov. 02 2012 10:56 AM
Braddlee from Bronx

Rather than simply describing the situation (as nearly all media seem to be doing) it would be great to have better in-depth reporting on the supply-chain issues, the status of refineries and ports, what officials and oil companies are doing to address these challenges, along with timeline for relief so folks can plan accordingly.

Nov. 02 2012 10:03 AM
denise whelan from Staten Island

When will the Staten Island ferry be up and running? What is the best and fastest way for people on the North Shore to get to Manhattan? There is no information on the ferry schedule site and 311 is flooded with calls and difficult to reach

Nov. 02 2012 09:19 AM

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