Readers’ stories: New York gas stations frustrate with long lines, short fuses

Tim Skillern
The Lookout

The storm has passed, but its aftermath—including downed trees, flooding, darkened apartment buildings and impassable roads—still stirs frustration in New York City, New Jersey and other hard-hit locations along the eastern seaboard. Yahoo News asked readers and residents to share their observations of what life is like, hour to hour, in the city—especially for those in search of gasoline. Here are some excerpts of what they wrote on Friday:

The grueling search for gas in Queens

JAMAICA, N.Y.—Less than a day after the hurricane hit, victims began sucking gas stations dry trying to keep their vehicles and generators running. A few days later, we're no longer describing the damage of our homes to each other. We're trading gas station war stories over lunch and at the water cooler.

As I was driving to work today in Queens, I noticed that my fuel gauge was pointing to just under the quarter tank mark. It was 6 a.m., and I was more than an hour early for work. I'm only two miles from work, but there are at least four gas stations on the way there. I drove to the first Sunoco station in Briarwood, but it seemed closed and headed down to the next one.

When I arrived at the Gulf station, I found a queue of about five vehicles and the station was packed, but I decided to wait. Over the next 30 minutes, many cars queued up behind me and the line didn't move an inch. After speaking to a few guys standing outside their vehicles, I realized this station had recently run out of gas, but the tanker was supposedly on its way. I'm not the type to wait for many things, so I got out of line and drove another few minutes to work.

As I picked up my lunch, the news broadcast in the restaurant had announced that Yonkers is enforcing a 10-gallon per day limit. My co-workers are all hearing rumors that the fuel barges are unloading at the docks already.

— Mike Wong

Major gasoline shortages and transportation issues in New York

FAR ROCKAWAY, N.Y.—The utilities are still off in my part of New York, Far Rockaway, on Long Island. While staying with my cousin and his wife in another part of Queens, we went out to get gasoline. Every gas station in this part of Queens was out of power, and one gas station in Cambria Heights even had police cars parked outside.

As we returned home, I checked my Facebook messages. No one was able to get gas anyone in Manhattan, the Bronx, Staten Island, Queens, Brooklyn, Nassau, or Suffolk. New Jersey had serious gas shortages as well.

Supposedly, much of the train service to downtown can be restored when Con Edison turns on the lights. This is reported to be Saturday night, according to Benjamin Kabak's Second Avenue Sagas Blog. Some lines like the A train to the Rockaways have long term damage, and it will be a while longer before they can fully repair them.

And this is just transportation issues. A number of people are still homeless due to storm damage, and volunteers are struggling to get food, clothes, and medicine to the need. Various Occupy Wall Street groups are sending out volunteers to help hurricane victims, as the city government initially seemed to have no plan to support people in need. Things are grim in New York and neighboring areas. They will be for a while.

We need all the help we can get.

— Justin Samuels

In search of power, internet, and gas

SEA CLIFF, N.Y.—Living on Long Island has become a challenge since the storm hit. Friday is the fifth day without power, Internet or any other comforts of the present day that we depend on. I am one of the lucky ones to at least have hot water.

I ventured outside of the confines of my little town to get the most recent updates, hearing that we could be without power for up to two weeks. As I hit Gen Cove, I saw a wall of cars waiting for gas from the local Hess station. The line seemed to go for miles, and that was only in one direction. I decided to turn and head away from Glen Cove so I could only imagine the line of vehicles waiting in the other direction. Local police told me the line began at 6 a.m. and that Hess has no gas and is waiting for a delivery that could possibly come by Friday night.

— Carol Ruth Weber

A generator is a life-line after Sandybut it costs fuel to get fuel

FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP, N.J.—Sandy is the most crippling storm to ever pass through my hometown. Though we were not hit as hard as other places, I feel more helpless than ever before. I am completely dependent on my generator and gasoline.

Friday is my fifth straight day without power. Fortunately, I have a Briggs & Stratton 3500 Watt Portable Generator. I am currently using it to power a sump pump, refrigerator and other small appliances. I am also supplying power to my neighbor, so he can power two sump pumps and a refrigerator. So we do have constant power, but we need gasoline to power the generator. That brings an even bigger problem.

Since no gasoline stations are open in Freehold Township, gasoline is at a premium right now. Residents are traveling to nearby towns to buy gasoline, but the lines are extremely long. People are fighting for gasoline, so police officers are on the scene. Some stations are running out of gasoline. I have twice filled up my containers in Bordentown. I waited only 20 minutes this morning, but Bordentown is 25 miles from home. I burned two gallons of gasoline just to buy more. It costs me $23 a day to run my generator.

--  Edwin Torres

Long gas lines and short tempers in New Jersey

DENVILLE, N.J.—The temperatures are dropping and tempers are flaring here in northern New Jersey.

Residents are siphoning gas out of parked car. Gas lines stretch seemingly for miles. As fast as I help one friend find gas, there are three more in a panic that they can't find gas! This will certainly be compounded as the temperatures will be in the high 20s tonight and a winter storm capable of bringing snow is scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday. People in New Jersey are losing their cool

Police are monitoring the gas stations up here in Morris County as people cut lines and tempers flare. My sister watched two men fist-fight over line-cutting last night at a gas station in Parsippany.

— Gioia Degenaars

Why the mess? Have we not learned anything?

BRIDEWATER, N.J.—We got power back Thursday evening, but parts of my neighborhood are still without power. Five days have gone by and this level of response and action is very lackluster and frustrating.

There are long lines for gas. My husband has to travel 45 miles each way to get to work, and he is running on half a tank of gas. He has been looking to fill up since Wednesday, but no luck. He can't even find air for the tires.

And there are people who are driving up to Pennsylvania to get gas. It's easily a 50- to 55-mile trek. If you are already low on gas, even that trek is impossible. How many can afford to skip work because they are low on gas?

Then you hear about the situation in Staten Island and parts of Manhattan: It just adds to the frustration people are already feeling. I have heard many, even the usually laissez-faire folks, ask questions about why there is no talk about alternative energy sources and energy back-up plan for the country and for other states.

It is hard to believe that we are in this situation after living through 9/11 and Katrina. Have we not learned anything?

— Bhumika Ghimire