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Long Lines Await N.J. Residents Needing Gas

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Basic services like electricity are being restored to those hit hardest by superstorm Sandy. But some resources like gas are still hard to come by. NPR's Martin Kaste talks with weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz from the only working gas station in Bayonne, N.J.


Let's go across the bay from Staten Island to New Jersey now where long gas lines have been forming over the past few days. Ships are now off-loading fuel in New York Harbor, and area refineries are starting to come online. But officials are saying it will be a few days more before the distribution and delivery of gasoline returns to normal.

NPR's Martin Kaste joins us now from the only working gas station in Bayonne, New Jersey. And, Martin, tell us what you're seeing from where you are.

MARTIN KASTE, BYLINE: Well, when I drove into Bayonne, it seemed pretty quiet. They don't have power everywhere in town yet, so it's kind of a sleepy little town. And all of a sudden, I ran into what looked like a traffic jam. That jam turned out actually to be the line of cars.

Cathy Metzendorf is someone I met there standing beside her SUV waiting, and I asked her to kind of give me a sense of where she stood in the larger scheme of things.

CATHY METZENDORF: OK. Right now, you're on 38th Street and Broadway in Bayonne. And supposedly, the only gas station is Quick Chek, which is on 53rd Street in Bayonne. So I've been here since a little after 8 o'clock. And hopefully, I'll get gas. I'm hoping my son will come so we could switch.

KASTE: So I followed that line where Cathy was standing for about a mile, and it finally got me here to the Quick Chek where, indeed, they do have gasoline.

RAZ: So will there be enough gas for Cathy when she gets to the pump?

KASTE: Well, one can hope so. They have some pretty strict rules here to try to limit how much - how quickly it gets sold. They'll only sell you $40 worth, and they'll only sell you gasoline if you have a license plate that - whose final digit is an even number because today is the 4th of November. Tomorrow, it will be odds. So those are the rules. Now, of course, emergency vehicles and other sort of VIPs, like Quick Chek's own employees do get to go to a shorter line and get gasoline.

But in general, things are pretty civilized here. The police are everywhere. They are watching both here at the head of the line, and they're also patrolling along the length of the line looking for people, for example, who have license plates that are not qualified today to get gas. And they'll pull those people out.

RAZ: Martin, we know that ships are off-loading fuel in New York Harbor. We know that regional refineries are coming online. Why then is there not enough gas available to go around?

KASTE: Well, it's not quite always a matter of not being enough gas to go around. And you're right, there is gasoline in the system. And, in fact, here where I'm standing in Bayonne, I can see the giant white tanks of the largest refinery in the New York Harbor region kind of looming over us. It's quite tantalizing, really. But the problem in a lot of cases is just logistics.

I talked to the gas - a BP station next door here. They're not selling gas. Not because they don't have gas - they do. In fact, the manager said he can get gas within a day. But they simply don't have the power to pump it. They just have a tiny little generator. While here at the Quick Chek, they managed to get a hold of a bigger generator, enough to run the pumps.

RAZ: Wow. That's NPR's Martin Kaste reporting from Bayonne, New Jersey. Martin, thanks.

KASTE: You're welcome.

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