Thursday, November 1, 2012

Fuel Shortages Reach Crisis Levels, Especially in New Jersey

Scenes like the one above in Hazlet, NJ are playing out across much of the Garden State again today.  You're looking at the "back of the line".  The front is all the way up to the center right of the image!  

Forget lining up in the car, these folks are just trying to get a few gallons into a portable container and move on their way, maybe to fuel their emergency generator because the power is still out, or just to put a few gallons in the car.  

The problems here are many:  Numerous gas stations are still closed because they have no power, and/or have water or wind damage.  Many of those that do have power lacked the foresight (or didn't have the option) to completely fill underground tanks before Sandy hit.  Now they have run dry, or are very close to doing so.

No problem, just call the distributor and order a tanker truck to resupply, right?  Wrong.  Many of the key fuel depots in the region are either still under water, or have damage from earlier high waters and/or winds, so they are out of service.  Those that are in service can't keep up with demand and are running out of fuel themselves.  They are also giving priority to requests from emergency responders and recovery crews, leaving little left over for the general public.

As you can probably imagine, tempers are flaring as people on foot and in cars alike wait for hours, often to be turned away empty handed when the station runs out of gas.  Today the State Police have been stationed at some of the busiest locations to make sure that order is maintained during this painful process.

When will things be back to normal?  It's hard to say with any level of confidence.  Just like what's being dealt with at the New York subway system, first you have to get rid of the water and get the power back on (both at individual stations and at regional fuel depots).  Only then can you diagnose and repair any other problems before the gas gets flowing again.

This is just another aspect of the horrible aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.  Unfortunately, just like most of the others, it's one that is completely out of the control of those that it hurts the most.

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