Monday, November 5, 2012

Hurricane Sandy: Car Wars - A New Hope?

Article first published as Hurricane Sandy: Car Wars - A New Hope? on Blogcritics.

If you are reading this from the friendly confines of a dry, heated home, thousands of miles away from New York, with a car fully gassed up in the driveway, and a grocery store full of food not too far away, you may be wondering what all the fuss is about. Well, the answer is that it is getting ugly; people are starting to break. Besides not having electricity, which basically controls everything in a modern home, people are faced with the inability to get gasoline, which means they are trapped in those very areas that are powerless and unable to seek out that restaurant or store in a powered area.

Last night the gasoline station on my corner had gas. There was a line of cars running along the two streets that connect at that corner, with literally hundreds of people taking a chance on getting some of the precious liquid. There was also a separate queue of people carrying red gas cans, desperate for gas to take home to fuel their generators. The police were there to keep order, but you could see the frenzy in people’s faces and knew this was bordering on spinning out of control.

Right now, with an impending work week starting on Monday, November 5, 2012, the gasoline shortage threatens all of us who need to get to our jobs. We still have only one station opened in our area, and it is also interesting that the station cannot open without the line already established at the curb. How is this happening? The answer is that it could be an inside job, with attendants calling out to inform people of impending deliveries. It also is possible that someone sees a delivery truck, pulls up to the curb, and starts the phone chain. Before you can say, “Obi-Wan Kenobi, you are my only hope,” the line is a few miles long.

It is getting cold here in New York, so not only do people without power have to deal with the inconvenience of no appliances, TV, and hot water, but now that is compounded by having no heat. There is the possibility also of pipes bursting, and this only enhances the anxiety everyone is experiencing.

The new hope that people are getting comes from Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has been relentless with his drive to get help for New Yorkers. In his last press conference, the governor explained how the Coast Guard had shut down the ports due to the flooding, and that this caused gasoline to be delayed from reaching our stations. It doesn’t make a difference to anyone why it has happened, because we still need gas, but Cuomo indicated that now the ports were opening, gasoline would be delivered to stations, and the situation should begin easing next week.

For now the site of long lines at the gas pumps only adds to our frustration and anger with our utilities, the government, and the oil industry. It seems no one in these entities can think ahead, to deal with a situation proactively. On Long Island for example, it is well known that trees are the major cause of problems with power lines. LIPA never seems to do anything before a storm to trim or even remove trees that could cause problems later on. It is always after the fact, and now there are people close to being without power for a week being told that they might not get power until next weekend.

Things are getting better in some areas of New York, and Manhattan has its power back again. But the reality is that things are still a good deal worse for us, and the end for many is still not in sight. There are many (who like myself are unable or unwilling to sit on lines for six hours to get gas) who are going to be down to running the car on gas fumes pretty soon, and then there is the possibility of not being able to get to work. All of this is a domino effect that is hurting our city every day that this crisis goes on.

So we wait and hope that the governor is right, but as of now getting gasoline here in New York is an arduous and unpleasant task. People are angry, sometimes coming to blows, and though many try for civility, tempers flare more easily than ever before. Drivers are weary and, when another driver attempts to cut a line, you can imagine that a battle will understandably erupt. We have been through so much already, and the prevailing question is when are things going to get better?

We all need an answer soon because of not only the cold weather but also dwindling spirits. On this day when we set the clocks back one hour, it is clear we are running out of time.

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