Frustration Grows Over Northeast Fuel Shortages

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Nov. 3 2012 1:00 PM

Power Slowly Returns, but Frustration Grows Over Fuel Shortages Amid Cold Snap

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People line up to fill gas canisters at a gas station in Matawan, New Jersey. The state instituted gas rationing Saturday

Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Many New Yorkers breathed a sigh of relief Saturday morning when they woke up to find they once again had power for the first time since Superstorm Sandy hit the region. But the troubles are far from over. Frustration is growing as millions are still without power amid concern by officials that utilities aren’t moving quickly enough, reports Bloomberg. And many of those lucky enough to have power were still feeling the aftershocks of Sandy as they often were forced to line up for hours in hopes of filling up their tanks amid dwindling fuel stocks. According to federal estimates, only one-third of gas stations in the New York metropolitan area had fuel to sell, notes the Wall Street Journal.

To help boost supplies, the Defense Department is setting up mobile gas stations to distribute as much as 10 gallons of free fuel per person in the New York area. And New Jersey instituted gas rationing as of Saturday at noon, reports the Associated Press. Yet gasoline is hardly the only concern. As the region gets ready for a cold snap that could lead temperatures to drop into the high 30s early next week, there’s fear some of the worst-affected may be left without heat due to a shortage of heating oil, notes Reuters.

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Slates Will Oremus took a (long!) walk across Manhattan and recorded how people managed to mostly go about their daily lives without power. “As the lights flick on, they will reveal a city bruised but essentially intact. It will look almost as if everyone had power all along,” writes Oremus. “And in a way, they did.”

There is guarded optimism though that any shortage of heating oil will not last long as the government is making efforts to restore supplies. In the good-news department, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday that 80 percent of the subway service had been restored, reports the New York Times. The death toll from the storm is now at 110 across nine states, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Cuomo has written a letter to state’s seven utilities this week, warning he wouldn’t hesitate to revoke operating certificates if they failed to restore power at an appropriate pace. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said that if utilities failed to meet their own deadlines “they’re going to have problems with me.” The delay in restoring electricity lags far behind what was seen during Hurricane Irene, notes Bloomberg.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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