Despite assurances from elected officials that the situation will improve quickly, the gasoline supply crisis in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy is going to get worse before it gets better, according to the president of the L.I. Gasoline Retailers Association.
New York Harbor has been reopened to tankers and barges carrying fuel to port, but until the terminals supplying Long Island gasoline wholesalers are operational, Long Island’s gas supply problems will continue, because there’s no way to get the gas to service stations, Kevin Beyer L.I. Gasoline Retailers Association president said Friday morning.
Only one of the four major terminals that supply gasoline retailers is currently operating, Beyer said. Located in Holtsville, it is supplied via pipeline from Port Jefferson Harbor, where barges were scheduled to offload fuel this morning.
“The Holtsville terminal can only handle so many trucks,” Beyer said. “The way cars are lining up at gas stations, that’s how tanker trucks are lining up at the Holtsville terminal,” he said.
Beyer predicted the gas supply won’t improve “for at least a week,” until the other three terminals are brought back on line.
Definitive information was not forthcoming on when the three other terminals, all located on the south shore of western Nassau County, will be reopened.
The Nassau terminals have not had power restored and the Long Island Power Authority has not responded to demands for a time frame for restoration, Suffolk County Legislator Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore) said in an interview today.
Cilmi yesterday called on LIPA to address power outages at the three dark terminals.
“LIPA didn’t even mention it in their morning update today,” Cilmi said. “Instead LIPA says it’s focusing on restoring power along main roads and to schools,” Cilmi said. “It’s baffling.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a news conference Friday morning to announce the reopening of New York Harbor and efforts underway to bring fuel-carrying tankers and barges into port.
“There is no need to panic,” the governor said, urging New Yorkers to be patient during the crisis. “Gasoline will begin to flow and things will get better very shortly,” Cuomo said.
Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) said Friday afternoon a BP terminal in Long Island City was now operating on a generator, a terminal in Oyster Bay opened early Friday morning with 2 million gallons of gas to distribute and the Northville terminal in Port Jefferson had its power restored Thursday night and would begin accepting deliveries Saturday morning.
“This gas shortage is temporary but extremely frustrating to all of us, and potentially dangerous for those operating generators to power medical equipment or electric heat,” Bishop said.
“The state and federal government have worked diligently to restore infrastructure and gas supplies should return to normal levels shortly,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone’s office said in its morning storm status update today.
But County Legislator Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches) said any claims that things will return to normal shortly are “absolutely false.”
“We’re being snowed on this.” Romaine said.
“It’s absolutely incredible that the terminals are not functioning and LIPA doesn’t even mention it,” Romaine said.
A request to the county executive’s office for comment on the status of power restoration to the terminals serving Suffolk County could not be answered by Bellone spokesperson Vanessa Baird-Streeter. “I don’t have any more definitive information on that,” she said.
Romaine said he asked Bellone to impose immediate restrictions on gas sales, including a 10-gallon cap on sales and odd/even day rationing, like that imposed in 1974.
Bellone said he ordered gas station owners to limit customers to fill just one tank of gas per visit and for those customers without power, up to an additional 10 gallons of gas would be permitted per visit. Romaine said those measures were “completely unenforceable.”
“The county executive is not providing effective leadership on this,” Romaine said in an interview. “He needs to declare a state of emergency where gas is concerned and institute limits. People are getting aggravated, lines are growing longer, and it’s becoming a matter of public safety.”
Gas stations that had supplies yesterday sold out. Stations that managed to get new supplies or stations where power was restored, enabling them to sell gas, quickly had lines of more than 100 cars early Friday morning. The lines created hazardous conditions requiring police officers to be dispatched to control traffic. One line of cars waiting to get to the pumps at the Hess station west of Kroemer Avenue on Route 58 backed up onto the eastbound LIE exit 73 ramp this morning. Police were called to the scene upon reports of cars driving up on the median to get past the jam.
As lines grew longer and tempers grew shorter, there were rampant reports of arguments, some escalating to physical fights, and even minor accidents, as vehicles jockeyed for position and some drivers attempted to cut the lines. Riverhead Police were called to gas stations on reports of disputes, disturbances and hazardous conditions more than a dozen times Thursday afternoon and evening.
Both Cilmi and Romaine expressed concern that the county itself might run short on fuel. Cilmi said the county normally has a two-week supply on hand.
Riverhead Town’s fuel supply levels was the subject of an emergency department head meeting Friday morning. The town has 5,000 gallons of gas in its 10,000-gallon tank right now, Supervisor Sean Walter said. It also has about 4,000 gallons of diesel fuel.