Gasoline-deprived motorists from New Jersey, New York trek to Poconos
Fuel shortages resulting from Superstorm Sandy continue to push thousands of gasoline-deprived motorists from New Jersey and New York into the region.
Pike County gas stations near the border with New York and New Jersey have been packed with out-of-state drivers filling their vehicles and gas cans for portable power generators.
Ed La Couture of Hampton, N.J., drove 17 miles to Milford on Friday to fill up his truck at a Turkey Hill convenience store and several plastic gas cans for generators. The drive and relatively short wait times were preferable to the situation in the Garden State, he said.
"The lines are probably two hours long (in New Jersey) for gas - if you can get it," La Couture said.
The storm knocked out power through much of the New York metro area and parts of New Jersey. Multiple gasoline terminals - huge storage deposit tanks that supply fuel distributors - from Long Island to New Jersey were out of service after sustaining storm damage and losing power.
Dozens of gas stations in New York and New Jersey still have not had power restored, so the fuel rush into Pennsylvania could last awhile.
"We need electricity to move this gasoline from medium to medium," said Patrick DeHaan, a petroleum analyst at GasBuddy.com, a fuel-information Internet network based Minneapolis. "This will last as long as terminals and gas stations are out of power."
In Milford, police banned parking along the west side of Route 6 approaching a Turkey Hill convenience store so vehicles could queue up for gas. New Jersey residents said gas station lines in the state's northwestern section had 75 cars.
Justin Reed of Stillwater, N.J., who filled up a vehicle and gas can at the Turkey Hill on Friday, said he waited an hour in line at a gas station near his home earlier in the week, but the station ran out of gas just as he got to the pumps. Twice this week, he drove 23 miles to Milford for gas. "I came up here because it just makes more sense. The lines by us are totally out of control," MReed said. "Even though it's a 30 minute drive (to Milford), you know you're going to get gas. That's the main thing." The gas-rush pressure is even more severe in the Stroudsburg area, said Rodney Passeri, owner of Falcon Oil Co., in Blakely. He supplies fuel to many stations in the region.
"Stroudsburg is getting pounded. They can't even keep up," Passeri said. "Locations that did 200 gallons (of gas) an hour are doing 1,000 gallons an hour. There's not enough supply to handle it."
Highhouse Oil Co. in Honesdale supplies a gas station in Matamoras that has trouble keeping fuel available, company president Alan Highhouse said.
"For our trailer driver, the lines are so long, he can't get in the place," Highhouse said. "They are running out of gas there every 24 hours."
The supply situation is so tight in New Jersey and New York, Passeri said, he now has clearance to deliver fuel to those states without a permit.
"It's disturbing. People are in a bad way," he said. "We are making extra money, but you don't want to profit from somebody's misery."
Some residents of New Jersey drove an hour on Friday to buy fuel at Helms' Service Station in Milford, owner Dave Helms said.
"There was a line waiting when I got here this morning" Helms said. "Most have several cans for their neighbors, for generators." Helms, who has been working at the station since 1967, said the lines are reminiscent of the gas shortage of 1973. He did not recall seeing such sustained long lines previously because of a storm.
The disturbance occurs as fuel costs have moderated recently. Average gas prices in the metro area on Friday were down six cents from the preceding week and down 8 percent over the last month, according to AAA motor club.
"The gas is there," DeHaan said. "Accessing and pumping it out is the problem."
Nevertheless, prices could increase slightly over the short term, DeHaan said.
"It's not going to undo all the price decreases we have seen in the last month," he said.
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