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.”