What Good Is a Gas Station (Or a Generator) If Gas Can’t Be Pumped?

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Thankfully, Hurricane Sandy isn’t expected to bring about spiking prices at gas stations. In hard-hit areas, though, the Frankenstorm brought about an even more aggravating situation: It’s made it nearly impossible to buy gasoline period.

For obvious reasons, generators have been hot sellers in recent days—since the historic storm-related power outages of summer 2011, really. Lately, some consumers who thought they were being prudent by planning ahead are finding out there’s little more frustrating than having a generator but not being able to find fuel to power it.

In New Jersey, reports Reuters, about half of homes and businesses are without power, while about 80% of gas stations aren’t selling gas—because they’ve run out, or they’re also without power. The story is similar in Long Island, where roughly half of gas stations were open on Wednesday. “I have gas in the ground but no power,” Kevin Beyer, president of the Long Island Gasoline Retailers Association, told Reuters. “For many others they’re facing the opposite problem, with power but no gasoline. For the few stations that are lucky enough to have both they’ve got huge lines out front.”

(MORE: Sandy: The Rare Natural Disaster That Isn’t Expected to Boost Gas Prices)

How big are the lines? In Morristown, N.J., the local paper noted that as of 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, there were more than 100 cars (and plenty more pedestrians carrying gas tanks) waiting to fill up outside a Getty Station. The station, meanwhile, had a mere 200 gallons of gas left to sell, and a police officer—called in to direct traffic—was getting ready to go car-to-car tell people that the tanks would soon be empty and that they were waiting in vain.

Later in the day, reports the Star-Ledger, Morristown police sent out a “gridlock alert” message, announcing: “Avoid Morristown. Gas stations are out of fuel, please make other arrangements.” Local police have also been called in to deal with incidents at gas stations all over the state, mostly over accusations of people cutting in line.

Residents have started using the Twitter hashtags #njopen and #njgas to spread word quickly about where it’s possible to fill up, recharge devices, and buy food and other supplies. Twitter users have also been posting photos of lines at gas stations, featuring dozens of people in hoodies and baseball hats, all with red fuel tanks in their hands or at their feet.

The Staten Island Advance has also been listing information about open gas stations (“about 70 cars were lined up 9:45 a.m. Wednesday” at a Getty), while also advising readers to use another Twitter hashtag, #siopen. Thanks input from friends on Facebook, the Patch site for East Brunswick, N.J., rounded up a list of businesses that are open—or rather, “MIGHT Be Open”— for gas and recharging purposes.

(MORE: In the Eye of the Storm: Capturing Sandy’s Wrath)

Unfortunately, because many homes and businesses are expected to remain without power through the end of the week, it looks like long lines of frustrated, un-showered crowds and rapidly depleting fuel tanks will continue to be the scene at the region’s relatively few open gas stations. One resident in central Jersey summed up the situation in the Star-Ledger:

“Everything’s just a mess here,” said Middletown resident Steve Foster, who said he had been waiting for about an hour and still hadn’t reached the pumps. “There’s no gas, no power, and it could be like that for another week.”

5 comments
n6ojj
n6ojj

Consider this: Effective with the 2007 hurricane season, Florida enacted a law requiring gas stations with 16, or more, dispenser positions and located within a half-mile of an interstate, turnpike or evacuation route be prewired for connection to a backup generator.   They are not required to keep a generator on site; they can arrange a rental.  The stations are not required to be open for business after a natural disaster.  A number of Florida's grocery stores have availed themselves of this opportunity for backup power.  Why is this concept for backup power so foreign in other areas that are hit with significant power problems every year?  There is nothing in the Florida law preventing several gas station sharing a single generator that could be towed from one to another.  This could allow a tank truck to deliver fuel to a gas station not yet crowded with cars and pickups. 

AlanCassetta
AlanCassetta

I have a 7000 watt propane generator   for any emergency, it can power every thing in my home   freezer refrig. water heater , tv's computer ,lights etc., it uses propane, my tanks are 500 gallon  and 325 , concealed! The gen use 4 gals. in 12 hours thats over half a year of electricity. I just had them filled for Winter here in Eastern Oregon  at $1.55 per gal. that s $6.30 a day but It really only needs to run about 8 hrs a day!

dochosvet
dochosvet

Well gee.  I have a generator and I have gas for a week or so in containers away from my buildings.  When you buy a generator any one with sense goes out and buys at least 10 gallons of gas.  That is enough to keep the frig  and freezer cold for  a week or  so if you turn it on for a couple hours every evening.  Last year I was out for 4 plus days.  During the day the wood stove  kept the house worm and I cleaned up the mess from an ice storm.  At dark I turned on the generator and went into a lighted house, cooked din-din on the wood stove and by 9 or 10 I was ready for bed and turned it off.  Lasted  a week with out going to a gas station.   Why is life so complicated for some people.  I of course realise my house didn't get moved off the foundation or flooded but the generator/gas problem wont help you there anyhow.  Then you need relatives or friends far away.

dubya4517
dubya4517

Also, what good is mass transit when the subway tunnels are flooded and the streets are blocked so most buses can't run? Not to mention how can we charge these electric cars when there's no power coming into your house?