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November 9, 2012

Gas rationing begins in NY as power outages abate

NEW YORK — A gasoline rationing plan that lets motorists fill up every other day went into effect in New York on Friday morning, as utility crews made some progress erasing outages that put thousands of new homes and businesses in the dark in a region still reeling from Superstorm Sandy.

Police enforced the new system at filling stations in New York City and on Long Island as drivers turned out before dawn to line up for their rations. At a Hess station in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan, drivers said it appeared to be working so far.

Luis Cruz, 35, of the Bronx, gassed up the Dodge minivan he uses as a pet chauffeur.

“It’s a lot better,” Cruz said. “A couple of days ago I waited four hours. They should have done this a long time ago.”

The line to the station was just a block and a half long Friday morning, and customers said they waited about 15 minutes. Last week, some lines stretched for a mile or more.

“This is designed to let everybody have a fair chance, so the lines aren’t too oppressive and that we can get through this,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Thursday.

Only a quarter of the city’s gas stations were open, the mayor said. Some were closed because they were out of power, others because they can’t get fuel from terminals and storage tanks that can’t unload their cargo.

Near a still-closed auto tunnel linking Manhattan and Brooklyn early Friday, cab and delivery truck drivers — exempt from the rationing system — eyed with dismay a line of closed gas stations.

“Hey, when’s the gas coming?” one driver hollered, to honking horns. “Tomorrow, we hope,” the attendant replied, shrugging his shoulders.

The nor’easter brought gusting winds, rain and snow on Wednesday and early Thursday before it moved on. Snow blanketed several states from New York to New England and stymied recovery efforts from Superstorm Sandy as additional storm-weakened trees snapped and more power lines came down.

Thousands of utility customers, mostly in New York and New Jersey, have been left waiting for their electricity to come back on — and some are losing patience, demanding investigations of utilities they say aren’t working fast enough.

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