Check out our Facebook page for more updates throughout the week!
Eli Ruiz | Democrat
Robert Hessinger of Youngsville, right, made the trip to the X-Tra Mart in Liberty to fill up on kerosene, as did the man on the left, who declined to give his name.
Gas 'panic' came and went
Story by Eli Ruiz
SULLIVAN COUNTY The gasoline “panic buying” that has gripped the Northeast in the wake of tropical storm Sandy made its way to Sullivan County though officials confirm it's over and that gas is available at sufficient quantities for everyone.
Unusually long 1979 oil crisis-style lines were spotted all last week at local gas stations as storm-weary motorists from as far away as Long Island, New York City and New Jersey have been coming to local pumps to stock up on gas, while some local gas purveyors were accused of price gouging.
Some local gas stations were receiving multiple daily deliveries while other, smaller stations were either low on gasoline, or ran out altogether. The same power outages stemming from Sandy that had shut down two-thirds of the filling stations in New York City and New Jersey also halted service at oil refineries and terminals in the region.
The federal government stepped in to ease the fuel crunch by tapping into emergency oil reserves, even ordering the military to dispatch fuel on Friday while limited pipeline and barge deliveries offered just a sliver of relief.
While the Obama administration has authorized the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) to buy and deliver more than 22 million gallons to the Northeast region, New York State has temporarily suspended tax and registration requirements on tankers docking in New York Harbor, just as the harbor had reopened to oil vessels. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was quoted as saying, “There should be a real change in conditions and people should see it quickly.”
Chaos and arguments
Pankaj Kumar, store manager at the Stewart’s Shop on Route 42 in Monticello, where a gallon of regular was at $3.88 as of Friday morning, said of the “panic,” “We’ve had extremely long lines all week but on Thursday it got as bad as it could get… we had a line that stretched into the main road (Route 42) and all the way to the blinking light at the intersection of East Broadway and Forestburgh Road.”
Kumar said that around 5 pm. Thursday, a police officer came in and informed him that with traffic so backed up due to the fuel line, the store would have to find someone to guide the Route 42 traffic jam.
“I felt bad about it, but I had to make one employee stay a lot longer that evening just to stand outside and guide traffic,” explained Kumar.
To make matters worse, motorists began coming in from both the station’s entrances, causing confusion, near accidents and lots of arguments as tempers flared.
“Today [Friday] has been calm because people saw we ran out of gas last night and don’t know we received a delivery at 1 a.m., but once everyone realizes that we have gas again I’m sure it will get crazy again,” said Kumar.
In Liberty, Sunoco Country Store Manager April Davis waited for some of the dozen or so cars, either fueling up or waiting to do so, to clear out so that she can take delivery from the Verona Oil tanker truck that had been waiting “more than a half-hour,” according to Davis, to replenish her supply.
“To be honest, we haven’t had the hours-long lines I’ve been hearing about at other places in the area, but we have been very busy… way more than the usual,” explained Davis.
Price as deterrent
In the western part of the county, in Hortonville, some gas buyers questioned if the Kountry Korner gas station on Route 17B was trying to profit from this current crisis by raising its fuel prices, which at one point reached $4.29 per gallon for regular unleaded. The store is owned by Charanjit Kaur and Gurdeep Singh.
Reached by telephone, a man who would only identify himself as “the owner’s son” said, “It’s not price gouging at all… in fact, we’re doing this more for security reasons than anything else. You see, people are coming up from the City and from New Jersey and buying up hundreds and hundreds of dollars worth of gas… we had one guy at our other store buy $500 worth in one shot. We’re keeping the price so high so these people don’t abuse the pumps.”
He went on to explain that at their Orange County location, they’d experienced half-mile long queues for gas on Wednesday and Thursday.
“In Rockland County and Orange [County] there are virtually no gas stations with gas, that’s why these people are coming over here. We ran out of gas at that location and if we didn’t raise the price in Hortonville, we’d have run out of gas there as well. As it stands right now, we’ve only got 500 gallons of fuel left [in Hortonville] and once that’s all gone we won’t have another delivery for a couple of weeks,” said the owner’s son. “We’re limiting people to 10 gallons per purchase now so that there’s enough gas for the locals… we just want the people of Sullivan County to get through this storm disaster.”
Meanwhile, back in Liberty at the Mobil gas station on North Main Street, Mukesh Kumar L. Chaudhari, the daytime manager, said he’s never seen his store so busy since it opened up for business earlier in the year.
“We’ve been receiving two deliveries every day or else we [will] run out,” said Chaudhari, adding that the station was being limited to between 500-600 gallons per delivery due to the shortage.
“Today I wait for 4,500 gallon delivery,” proclaimed a visibly relived Chaudhari.