Hurricane Sandy Aftermath: New Yorker Waits 46 Hours On Line For Gasoline

Queens Gas Line
A man fights for his place in line while waiting to get fuel at a gas station in Queens, N.Y., on Nov. 1, 2012. REUTERS

Travis Brann waited more than 46 hours for gas this past weekend.

While he had seen and read stories about the gas shortage in the New York region since a day or two after Hurricane Sandy hit, he never expected it could be this bad or last this long.

The young delivery company worker showed up at the Gulf station on Francis Lewis Boulevard and 29th Avenue in his hometown of Bayside, Queens, at about 1 p.m. Friday, expecting to fill the tank of his orange Nissan 350Z within a few hours when, he had been told, a fuel truck was supposed to arrive.

“Even knowing they didn't have gas, I decided I'd get in line and wait until they got a delivery because I didn't have enough to drive around more looking for gas,” he said Sunday evening.

Several hours turned into nearly two days. Brann slept two nights in his car on the gas line, shivering in near freezing temperatures, before finally filling up Sunday afternoon. During that time, he witnessed yelling matches over spots in line and had friends in the area stop by to watch his car while he used the gas station bathroom, all the while being told every few hours that gas was on the way.

Brann's job for the Bayside-based outfit Legal X-ray Duplications requires him to drive regularly to Manhattan, Long Island and other areas of New York City and its environs delivering medical documents and X-rays. To return to work Monday morning, he was going to need a fully gassed-up vehicle.

“If you didn't know a gas truck was coming to a station, you probably wouldn't be in line soon enough to get gas,” he said.

In Brann’s case, the information he got turned out to be erroneous. But there were tips and rumors being spread through all kinds of channels, so it was difficult to tell how accurate the information was.

Some of these tips were from Queens Facebook users who posted messages like this: “GAS ALERT: Valero in East Moriches $3.99 gal and a 30-40 min wait," sent out as a community service by Maspeth, Queens, resident Charlene Stubbs on Sunday.

City Councilman Dan Halloran, a Republican representing much of Northeast Queens and currently running for Congress in New York's 6th District, was on hand when the gas finally arrived Sunday at that Gulf Station in Bayside, where Brann was queued up. He helped mediate arguments, got the line moving and worked with police officers to keep order as best as possible.

“As we look at the big picture of the gas supply issue that's going on now, it's clear that we weren't prepared for three or four days without power,” Halloran said. “We had gas stations that had gas but couldn't pump it because they didn't have power, and we had gas stations with power that couldn't pump because they didn't have gas.”

He said that the city government should require all businesses with a license to pump gas to have a redundant generator system in place in order to stay online in future blackout situations.

Moreover, Halloran said that a governmental agency should keep an inventory of the gas supply in order to ensure that fuel gets where it is needed most in such dire situations, which he called “almost impossible” to navigate absent such measures.

A gas shortage, which to many may seem a minor concern in the wake of destruction on the level of a hurricane such as Sandy, can have a wide-reaching impact, City Councilman Jumaane D. Williams of Brooklyn pointed out via email on Sunday -- particularly with Tuesday's election so close at hand.

“Many worry that they will not be able to get to the polls at all,” he wrote. “This issue is pressing for those in our evacuation centers, but it also pertains to those that are suffering [due] to the gas shortage or have other logistical issues that have arisen due to the storm.”

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