Cabdriver Harum Prince joined a nearly mile-long line for gasoline early Friday in Manhattan after already spending three hours in a similar queue in the Bronx — only to have the station run out of gas when it was almost his turn.
Prince leases his cab from a garage for $130 a day; in order to make money, he has to beat that in fares, plus what it costs to buy gas. And with all the time spent waiting, he hopes he can somehow get fuel and make the money back before he has to turn the cab in at 5 p.m.
"I don't blame anybody," he said. "God, he knows why he brought this storm."
Superstorm Sandy damaged ports that accept fuel tankers and flooded underground equipment that sends fuel through pipelines. Without power, fuel terminals can't pump gasoline onto tanker trucks, and gas stations can't pump fuel into customers' cars.
The Port of New York and New Jersey was slowly starting to accept tankers, but some cargo was being diverted to the Port of Virginia. Federal requirements for low-smog gasoline have been lifted, and fuel trucks are on their way to the area.
But for now, the long lines for gas are testing patience all along the coast wherever supplies are tight, especially in New Jersey. In the New York City borough of Queens, a man was accused Thursday of flashing a gun at another motorist who complained he was cutting in line.
Prince's line on Manhattan's West Side stretched 17 blocks down 10th Avenue. About half the cars were yellow cabs, crucial chariots in a city with barely functioning public transportation.
Near a Hess station in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn, a line snaked onto fairly narrow but busy streets, causing confusion on the road. Some drivers accidentally found themselves in the gas line, and people got of their cars to yell at them for cutting.
Vince Levine, of the Park Slope section of Brooklyn, got in line with his van at 5 a.m. Friday. By 8, he was still two dozen cars from the front.
Like other drivers there, he was shutting his engine off during periods of sitting but had to restart whenever the line moved.
"I had a half-tank when I started," he said. "I've got a quarter-tank now."
Long lines also formed in suburban New York's Westchester County as early as 6 a.m., when dozens of cars snaked along the breakdown lane of an expressway waiting for gas at a rest stop in Yonkers.
On the other side of the highway, about 30 cars lined up on an exit lane trying to get into a gas station, interrupting the flow of traffic.
In the Westchester County village of Elmsford, lines formed at the few gas stations that remained open. Yellow tape was pulled across driveways of stations that are closed.
In Farmingdale, east of New York City on Long Island, at least four gas stations were closed or had yellow tape around the pumps because they were out of gas.