Gas lines shorten with odd-even rationing

Customers are relieved that gas lines have shortened significantly, since the gas-rationing system went into effect Friday. Videojournalist: Jim Staubitser (Nov. 9, 2012)

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Lines were shorter or nonexistent at many Long Island gas stations Friday as odd-even rationing began. But some drivers skirted the rules, and many stations remained closed for lack of fuel.

At a Citgo station in Mineola, Joan Cotelidis, of Manhasset, said she waited only 23 minutes to fill up. "At 8:47 a.m. I got on line," Cotelidis said. "The line was cooking and at 9:10 a.m. I was done, saying, 'Thank you, thank you, thank you!' "

But the lines weren't completely gone. Steve Moskowitz, 54, of Merrick, said he waited more than an hour to fill his Toyota Sienna at a station in Old Westbury. "It was much longer than I had expected," he said.

A reporter driving on Middle Country Road (Route 25) from Coram to Huntington Station in late morning found 17 gas stations pumping fuel and 11 closed. Most that were open had no lines, and none was longer than about 20 vehicles.

"You still have a lot of stations closed but it is improving daily," said Kevin Beyer, president of the Long Island Gasoline Retailers Association.

The odd-even system was instituted by Nassau and Suffolk to reduce waits that had stretched into hours and to reduce anxiety and panic-buying that was exacerbating the shortage, public officials said.

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"The lines are shorter by definition," Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said at a news briefing Friday. "And I hope these shorter lines get people to relax."

There are signs that the supply crunch is easing. The U.S. Department of Energy said Friday morning that of 57 terminals in the path of Hurricane Sandy, 50 are now open.

But Motiva Enterprises Llc's Inwood terminal remains closed, said the Energy Department. The result was congestion at other terminals on Long Island, including two others at Inwood, and at Northville Industries' facility in Holtsville and a small one at Glenwood Landing, said Brian Fioretti, a vice president of Island Transportation Corp., which delivers gasoline to stations. He said his trucks are waiting two to four hours to load at Inwood.

"There's gas," said Fioretti, "but we're just having a tougher time getting it to market."

Meanwhile, prices continue to rise. Regular averaged $4.144 in Nassau and Suffolk Friday, AAA said, up 2 cents from the day before and up 23 cents from last Wednesday, when lines began appearing. The group estimated that 65 percent to 70 percent of Long Island stations were open at some point Friday, about the same as Thursday.

At a Hess station on Montauk Highway in Bayport, there was virtually no wait about 9:30 a.m. Friday. An employee at the entrance checked plate numbers and then waved cars in. The employee said that earlier in the week, the station had long lines.

But some drivers with even-numbered plates just couldn't wait. At a Mobil station in New Hyde Park, clothing store manager Ellen Shaw, 23, said her tank was nearly empty. "I don't know who's going to stop me," Shaw said. No one did.

Some stations were enforcing the odd-even rule; others weren't. Kal Varughese, owner of the Mobil station, said, "It's hard for us to check the plate numbers, and I don't want to fight with people."

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At a BP station in Jericho, manager Tarek Awad said motorists were adhering to the rules, and he said he would not refuse gas to anyone who badly needed it. "If I see he's empty, I have to let him buy gas," Awad said. "It would be ridiculous if I said no."

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