By Rick Murphy
Though long lines and short tempers attest to a palpable shortage of gasoline, state officials promised that relief would arrive on the East End this week.
"There's some panic out there but I spoke to the Governor's office and the prognosis is good," said State Assemblyman Fred Thiele. "They've gotten power back at a couple of the key terminals and the Port of New York is open." Thiele said in addition Governor Andrew Cuomo has temporarily eased regulations to make it easier for tankers to unload.
Congressman Tim Bishop announced that the Energy Department has established a team to assist local authorities in their efforts to help get gas stations back online, as part of the coordinated Super Storm Sandy recovery effort on all levels of government.
To help state and local officials identify gas stations that are in need of emergency generators to restore power or are running short on fuel supplies, the Energy Department has established a toll-free number at 1-866-402-3775. Gas station owners and managers can now call if they need assistance from state and local officials in restoring power or securing supplies of gasoline following Super Storm Sandy.
"The situation will continue to improve in the coming days as gas deliveries increase, but this new federal effort to link service station owners with the resources they need to serve the public is a critical step in returning the system to normal," said Bishop.
Nevertheless, tension is building as motorists -- and those who need gas to power generators -- are clashing with each other and with gas station owners.
"Things are getting better," Cuomo commented. "That does not mean there will be a total alleviation of the problem in the immediate future." Cuomo urged people not to hoard gas.
Last Friday Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone ordered gas station owners to limit customers to one tank of gas, either in their motor vehicle or in portable containers. Bellone has also urged county residents to stay off the roads if possible to conserve gas and also to allow repair trucks easier access to the roads. As of this writing there were still 200,000 LIPA customers without power.
Though there is certainly plenty of outrage over the outages, the general perception seems to be LIPA is doing its best to restore power. "There's no question they handled it better than Irene," Thiele said, "but that's not setting the bar very high."
Hess gas stations are open for business. The company has posted a complete list of stations and their current gasoline supplies at hessexpress.com, drawing praise from Thiele in the process. "Hess is one of the better corporate citizens," he said.
Though there has been speculation that a food shortage might develop on the East End, Thiele said that wasn't happening. However, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand in a joint press release announced the United States Department of Agriculture approved New York State's request for emergency food resources. Roughly 1.1 million pounds of household-size USDA food items will be distributed to households through 1000 designated emergency feeding outlets in the areas of Westchester and Rockland counties, New York City, and Long Island.
There is no rest for the weary. As of deadline the National Weather Service warned, "A significant coastal storm will likely impact the tri-state area" beginning today and stretching into tomorrow night. There will be heavy rain and a potential for gusting winds that could exceed 50 miles-per-hour. "Coastal flooding and additional beach erosion will result from this system," according to the weather service.