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Fighting For Fuel: Lack Of Calm After The Storm


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin.

New York and New Jersey are starting to recover from Superstorm Sandy, but life is still far from normal across much of the region. Even though the lights are back on in Manhattan, about a million people in the Northeast are still without power and long lines for gasoline are the norm.

NPR's Joel Rose has more.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo urged patience and assured New Yorkers that more gas is coming soon.

GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO: Fuel is on its way. You don't have to panic. We don't need the anxiety. We don't need the lines. Be prudent, but fuel is on the way.

ROSE: In fact, at a briefing yesterday in Manhattan, Cuomo promised free gas at fueling stations in New York City and Long Island.

CUOMO: The Department of Defense is going to be making available mobile fuel stations in five locations in the metropolitan area to distribute gasoline. They'll have a 10-gallon limit. The good news, it's going to be free.

ROSE: The prospect of free gas or any gas at all was music to the ears of New Yorkers. Many gas stations have been closed since the storm. Those that are open have lives that can stretch for blocks. So hundreds of people flocked to the free fueling station in Freeport, Long Island. But when they got there, there was no gas in sight. Nashua County police tried to keep order.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: We don't know anything for sure but we're being told...

ROSE: Hundreds of cars lined up to wait for a tanker that never showed up.

ED HOGAN: They made it sound like the tankers were here. For two and a half hours already I've been here.

ROSE: Ed Hogan, of Massapequa, Long Island, has been trying for days to fill his red plastic gas tank.

HOGAN: I have a generator running for me and my two neighbors, and I'm running out of gas. I'm ready to siphon it out of my cars so I can keep the generator running.

ROSE: Across Long Island, hundreds of thousands of utility customers still have no power. Alan Danverville, of Valley Stream, is one of them. He was hoping to fill his gas tanks so he could get back to work.

ALAN DANVERVILLE: I work for the New York City Transit and I couldn't even make it in today. No gas anywhere. Those gas stations in Valley Stream, the lines are for blocks and blocks, hours and days. No gas.

ROSE: A New York State official told NPR that most of the fuel Governor Cuomo mentioned had to be reserved for emergency responders instead of the general public.

Across the Hudson River in New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie implemented gasoline rationing in an effort to ease long lines at the pump. If your license plate has an odd number in it, you're allowed to fill up on odd numbered days. All those with even number plates can fill up on even numbered days.

GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE: I'm asking New Jerseyans to comply voluntarily with this system. If everyone complies with the system it'll ease lines and wait times, create a less stressful situation for everybody involved.

ROSE: But Christie said state police and representatives from the Attorney General's Office would be out at gas stations just in case.


ROSE: Much of Lower Manhattan has power again after being dark all week, but gas is still an issue. Gary Odichianti(ph) waited to fill up his motorcycle on the corner of Lafayette and Houston Streets in Soho. He says don't even think about cutting in line here.

GARY ODICHIANTI: First of all, everyone screams at you and you get a partial riot.


ODICHIANTI: And then people get out of their cars with jack handles and stuff. It's like "Lord of the Flies."

ROSE: Drivers across the region may have to fend for themselves for a few more days until gas supplies get back to normal.

Joel Rose, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Joel Rose is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk. He covers immigration and breaking news.
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