Analyst: Long lines for gas could last into next week

People waited in line for 20 minutes to

People waited in line for 20 minutes to get gas at this Hess station in Ronkonkoma. (Nov. 1, 2012) (Credit: Ed Betz)

As Long Island motorists expressed frustration Thursday about gas stations with no gas and having to wait in long lines at stations with fuel, a leading analyst said the situation could continue into next week.

The force from superstorm Sandy has cut power to many stations, and it also has damaged supply sources in New York Harbor, Staten Island and New Jersey, from where Long Island gets much of its gasoline, said Andy Lipow, a Houston-based analyst.

"The bottom line is that the terminals and distribution system has been damaged," Lipow said. "It's going to take time to restore power, pump out floodwaters, get rid of mud and get workers back to those locations and get operations started."


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The situation could not have been worse for Monica Hadnagy of Ronkonkoma early Thursday as she visited eight different stations without finding gas.

Unemployed, she was headed for a job interview in Riverhead, she said, if she could find gasoline.

Her gas gauge was on empty and she was visibly flustered when she found there was no gas at the Gulf station on Ronkonkoma Avenue in Ronkonkoma.

"Getting around is a little frustrating," Hadnagy, who has been out of work for two weeks, said.

Kursat Erdemir, manager of the Gulf station, said his last delivery was 5,800 gallons at 4 p.m. Wednesday. He sold out in four hours.

When Hadnagy finally found gas 90 minutes later -- at a BP station on Portion Road and Patchogue Road -- she was elated and said she would be able to make job interview on time.

Lipow said it might take a week or more for the entire system to be restored. Until then, Long Islanders can expect the long lines and, in places, limited supplies.

The storm hit terminals in New York Harbor and Staten Island, where tankers load gasoline, to deliver to supply points in Setauket and Holtsville, Lipow said.

There was good news Thursday when officials said the Port of New York was opened for the shipping of fuel, according to a news release from the office of U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Schumer said he had spoken to the U.S. Coast Guard on Wednesday, prompting the opening, restricted to only the shipping of petroleum.

Michelle Krupa, a Coast Guard spokeswoman, said New York Harbor has opened for ships carrying fuel to be distributed throughout New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. It is a "restricted" opening for fuel only, she said.

The shipments will provide fuel to terminals in Brooklyn, Queens and Nassau County.

Gasoline from those terminals eventually will make its way to Long Island, she said.

Sandy also messed with a pipeline from Linden, N.J., which not only supplies gasoline but jet fuel to New York City airports, according to Lipow, the industry analyst. That pipeline has been down because of flooding, but generators have been secured and it could start pumping fuel again by as early as Thursday, Lipow said.

The gas line at the BP station on Wellwood Road in West Babylon stretched 25 cars, with testy drivers waiting to gas up and get to work.

Bart Buckley of Seaford sat in his car with Molly the Weimaraner, waiting to pay $3.899/10. He said he drove from his home -- which held six feet of water -- searching for gas, and lines were worse Thursday than Wednesday.

Elsewhere in line, Jose Conner sat with his foot out a car window driven by Frank Ramirez. Conner said they had driven from a fuel company in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and searched the island for gas while driving to Calverton to pick up a truck.

It took about an hour for cars to make it from the back of the line to the front.

"Either no power or no gas, one or the other," Ramirez said of most gas stations they encountered.

Conner agreed that gas lines were worse Thursday than Wednesday.

"People are like scrounging for gas," he said.

Some terminals in the damaged areas of New York and New Jersey that supply Long Island stations should be getting supplies as early as Thursday, Lipow said. But then there is a problem with many Long Island gas stations not having power.

With Patrick Whittle and Candice Ferrette

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