The second day of statewide gas rationing appeared to make a difference Sunday with waits for fuel taking less time than they were last week.
A sampling of lines throughout Bergen and Passaic counties were routinely a quarter- to a half-mile long. A few weeks ago, that would have seemed unthinkable -- but compared to the two-mile-long lines that were routine last week, Sunday's waits were a relief.
"The lines are much shorter and the tempers are much better," said Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli, who said he visited a few stations where officers were on patrol.
The rationing, put in place on Saturday, allows only drivers whose license plates' final number is odd to buy gas on odd-numbered days, and those with plates ending in an even number to fuel up on even days. The restriction only applies to passenger vehicles.
While there were still some stations with long lines on Sunday, people who visited the Hess on Route 17 South in Paramus were able to pull or walk right up to the pump.
"It looks like this gas thing is lightening up," said Arthur Lehr, of Lodi, as he filled up a pair of cans and his van. "This was a little more calm than the gas shortage in the '70s. I heard some stories of people getting into fights, but it wasn't like the gas shortage in the '70s."
Lou Cordero of Passaic seemed to agree as he filled up cans to put in his pair of Jeep Wranglers -- both with odd-numbered plates -- so he and his wife could make their morning commutes.
"It's getting better today," he said. "It really is."
Julius Simon of Paterson wished he could have brought more than four gas containers, but that's all he could find.
"These last three days ... I'd fill up one can and a couple hours later it was gone."
No one seems to know when gas stations without power or stations with power but no gas will get what they need. Governor Christie didn't give an estimate Sunday on when the rationing program might end.
"I think this is going to be relatively short," he said at a press conference in Hoboken. But the rationing may need to be extended if a nor'easter forecast to hit the state in the middle of the week disrupts fuel distribution, he said.
Sal Risalvato, executive director of the N.J. Gasoline C-Store Automotive Association, said 80 percent of fueling stations in North Jersey either have no gas or no electricity -- the same statistic he gave on Thursday.
Risalvato said fuel was en route Sunday morning to National Guard armories in the region to fill tanker trucks that will bring the fuel to stations with power but no gas. He declined to say how much fuel was being delivered, but said members of Christie's office told him Sunday that Bergen County was on the list of "critical" areas where gas shipments and power restoration are a priority.
"They are promising to prioritize gas stations so they can sell the inventory in the ground," he said. "Those who have had power are running out of gas."
Christie said the state's gasoline problem is not a fuel shortage. There is plenty of gas, he said, but power outages have prevented it from being distributed to where it is needed.
Now that power is being restored, distribution should improve soon, Christie said.
Christie urged gas stations that can operate with generators to do so but acknowledged some private stations don't have that option. "Some of them just aren't built for it," he said.
A majority of Hess stations around New Jersey have been using generators to remain open, a company spokeswoman said. Meanwhile, Hess is posting a list of open gas stations online at hessexpress.com/FuelInformation and highlighted ones with more than 7,000 gallons of fuel.
In North Jersey on Sunday, the list included stations in Fort Lee on Route 46 and Route 4, in Orange on Central Avenue, in Paramus on Route 17 south, in Ramsey on Route 17 north, in Rockaway on Route 46 and in Secaucus in Route 3 west. All but the station in Orange had more than 10,000 gallons available. Stations with less than 5,000 gallons will run out of fuel in less than two hours, according to the website.
Another website, gasbuddy.com/sandy lists open and closed stations by entering a city, state or zip code, but most of the stations were listed as "unknown."
But while rationing continues, some drivers are finding creative ways around the rules.
On Sunday afternoon, three different people parked their cars at Super Foodtown on Route 23, grabbed a gas can and walked across Packanack Lake Road to an Exxon station, where they filled up the cans, then walked back to fuel up their cars in the parking lot.
Molinelli said he received a report Saturday that a motorist was switching license plates on the side of Route 17. While he doesn't believe plate-switching is widespread, he put police departments on notice to be on the lookout for tampered plates.
Anyone whose car and registration doesn't match their license plate will get a summons for operating a vehicle with fictitious plates, the prosecutor said.
"There is zero tolerance for any violation of the governor's order," he said.
The gas rationing also triggered some questionable ethical behavior. The governor criticized people "hoarding" gas -- filling up when they already have enough to get by -- but said there was nothing he could do to stop it.
"If people are going to be selfish, then they've got to deal with their own conscience," he said.
Mahwah Police also received a report Saturday night that two men were selling gas for $8 a gallon from the back of a pick up truck near the Valero Station on Route 17 South, police said. Police found nothing suspicious when they arrived.
A Teaneck man received seven citations Saturday after Wayne police found he was carrying a 300-gallon drum in a pickup truck. The man was cited for placing injurious substances on a highway, operating a vehicle in an unsafe condition, and other violations
Police had responded to reports that the man was selling gasoline from the back of the pickup, but the man told officers that he had brought the fuel to a friend who lives in the area, an account that was confirmed by the friend.
But police said a crowd had formed and started suggesting they would pay for the gas if he would sell it to them.
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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