Motorists across New Jersey faced a second day of stressful, enormous lines Thursday at the gas stations that still had both electricity and supplies, as power outages kept many pumps out of service and tough travel made fuel deliveries difficult.
A police officer directed traffic at a Gulf station in Newark as a line of vehicles stretched for about two miles. Dozens of people with empty red gas canisters also stood in the line that snaked around the station.
Betty Bethea, 59, had been waiting almost three hours as she approached the front of the line of cars, and she brought reinforcements: Her kids were there with gas cans, and her husband was behind her in his truck.
"It is crazy out here -- people scrambling everywhere, cutting in front of people. I have never seen New Jersey like this," Bethea said.
Two factors are to blame for the shortages and the runs on gas, according to AAA spokeswoman Tracy Noble.
Many stations just can't pump gas because they lack power, she said. And fuel trucks are having trouble getting around, causing gas shortages in many parts of the state.
Noble said she's heard of National Guard vehicles being stuck in line with other motorists. Some stations have been rationing gas, she said, capping each driver's purchase at $20 or $50.
In areas with power, she said, the situation could improve quickly as fuel trucks reach stations.
``We need folks to be patient right now,'' Noble said. ``Everybody is in the same boat.''
Bethea had tried to reach her job at a northern New Jersey Kohl's store on Thursday morning, only to find the dreaded ``fuel low'' light on in her car. She and her husband crisscrossed the region in search of gas and were shooed away by police at every closed station.
The gas line Bethea wound up in was mostly orderly, with cars inching along as a police officer waved them into the station one by one. But one car ran out of gas while waiting in line, leading to further delays and an opportunity for line jumpers.
In Pennsylvania, in towns near and along the state line with New Jersey, long lines of mostly vehicles with New Jersey license plates were queuing up as well.
U.S. Senators Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) today called on President Obama to dispatch supplies of gasoline and fuel to the state for residents, to keep emergency vehicles running, and to ensure critical infrastructure, like water treatment and sanitation facilities, remain operable.
The senators also requested backup generators, dryers, and additional fuel supplies to help electric companies continue their efforts to restore power.