Sandy Dealt Serious Blows To Fuel Supply System

Sandy dealt two serious blows to the gasoline and diesel supply system in New York and New Jersey. The storm shut down a large number of the petroleum terminals in the region. Those are the massive storage tanks that hold gasoline so tanker trucks can pick it up and take it to gas stations. Some of these terminals were damaged, while others just lost power. The storm also shut down the major pipeline that brings gasoline from the Gulf Coast. So even when fuel stations get their power back, they will have a hard time getting gasoline they need. Experts say it could be days or weeks before things return to normal.

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And four days after the storm, people in New York, Long Island, New Jersey are struggling to find the essentials. As NPR's Greg Allen reports from Lyndhurst, New Jersey, which essentials are in short supply depends on where you live.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: In some large blacked out areas, for example, there aren't enough ATMs in service, and cash is in short supply. In Coney Island, Daquan Franklin(ph) says it's almost impossible to find cash now.

DAQUAN FRANKLIN: Most of the ATMs over here on this side is down. That's why I had to walk all the way to Marlboro Projects just to find working ATMs since the storm started.

ALLEN: That's dozens of blocks away. And throughout the region, there's one shortage that afflicts nearly everyone.

WILLIAM JONES: No gas.

ALLEN: William Jones was standing in line at a Sunoco station today in Clifton, New Jersey. There were nearly 100 people in line with him, all holding gas cans. But the station was closed.

JONES: We saw the line, so we got in the line.

ALLEN: In situations like this, information is nearly as valuable as gasoline. Jones said he knew the station had gas.

JONES: Gas is in the tank already, in the ground. The truck left.

ALLEN: Oh, did you see the truck arrive?

JONES: Right.

ALLEN: You guys were here when the truck arrived?

JONES: Yeah.

ALLEN: Out on Route 3, cars are stretched back more than a mile. The first car is a Honda Accord. It's driven by Saskia Augustin. She says she was having breakfast at the diner next door when she saw a tank truck pull up here.

SASKIA AUGUSTIN: And then I saw the tanker and I said, I'm just going to follow the tanker. So we followed the tanker, and it happened to be right next door. So all is good.

ALLEN: The owner finally arrives. The pumps are unlocked, and attendants begin pumping gas - a $30 per customer maximum. Over the last four days, as people have struggled to find gas, arguments and even fights have broken out at some stations. And because of the shortage, there's been some price gouging by dealers. At his Sunoco station though, owner Julio Estevez says he hasn't been tempted to raise his price - $3.57 for a gallon of regular - even a little.

JULIO ESTEVEZ: For me, I know I will get more people in the long term. You know, they make some money like in two or three days, make a lot of money, so that's not my goal. My goal is to make more customers, you know?

ALLEN: For Estevez, business is good. He's hired several extra workers to help with the crowds. And since the storm, he's gotten regular gasoline deliveries. Even better, he sells out every day. Greg Allen, NPR News, Lyndhurst, New Jersey.

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