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Editorial: Shortage fuels frustration on gasoline lines

Gas customers brave the cold Monday as they

Gas customers brave the cold Monday as they wait on a long line at the U.S. Gas station on Route 112 in Medford. (Nov. 5, 2012) Photo Credit: James Carbone

When Sandy first hit, did you ever think that more than a week later, getting gas would still be a problem?

The shortage has been relentless, especially in the western part of the Island.

Supplies were interrupted for three days due to the Sandy-related shutdown of New York Harbor by the Coast Guard. Then there was the crippling of terminals in New Jersey, where much of the region's supplies are stored, and the lack of electricity at local service stations -- at one point 40 percent of them in Nassau were without power, while fuel languished in their tanks.

Not only are the delivery and distribution networks incapacitated, but the demand is also greater than ever. Thousands of heavy trucks and other fuel-guzzling emergency vehicles are using a big part of the reduced supply, as are the many generators and power tools.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has gotten generators for some of the area's terminals, so fuel can be pumped into tankers. He relaxed air quality restrictions, so 25 instead of just 15 tankers can refill each hour, and found more tugboats to pull fuel barges to shore faster.

But businesses and drivers are suffering, and workplaces are scrambling to accommodate staffers who can't get to work. On top of the all-around weather stress, drivers are getting up in the middle of the night to find shorter lines.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has ordered limits on fill-ups, which may nip lines, but there still will be a shortage. Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano might impose odd-even day rationing, but he's rightly concerned that it would put more demand on strained police departments to enforce the system and prevent disputes. And people could switch plates or use other system-gaming tricks.

But like much with Sandy, the extent of the damage still surprises. We kept hearing it would all get better in a few days. Then the nor'easter hit Wednesday; now it might be a another "few more days" before normalcy returns.

And perhaps it will.

But exasperated Long Islanders may not have a few more days of patience left in their tanks.


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