Two days after Sandy severed power to most of North Jersey, dwindling fuel supplies set off a stampede to service stations Wednesday, as empty tank-toting thousands waited hours to pay at the pump.
Tensions often ran high as gasoline for cars and generators became more scarce by the second.
Lines of people holding red canisters stretched into the dozens, while scores of cars backed up onto highways.
"Avoid Morristown. Gas stations are out of fuel, please make other arrangements,” an alert from Morristown Police read Wednesday afternoon.
"Everyone's panicking because all their gas tanks are on 'E,'" said one officer as he restricted access to Morristown’s Abbett Avenue in one direction because the mad rush to Dean's Tire Service there had gotten out of hand.
Morristown, of course, wasn’t the only town that saw lack of fuel or lines of cars spanning blocks.
“The line was stretched past Whole Foods and then all of the sudden everyone disbursed because the station ran out of gas,” Christine Stanley Becker said on Facebook. “They are still out.”
Governor Christie late Wednesday moved to boost supplies of gasoline and diesel by waiving requirements that affect stations from buying fuel from out-of-state suppliers.
The waiver will be in place until Nov. 7, and was made necessary by the shutdown of pipelines and refineries in the wake of Sandy.
“When shortages threaten after natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy, fuel buyers need to venture farther from state borders to ensure that their customers get the gasoline and diesel they need,” Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff said. “Temporarily suspending licensing is a prudent way of empowering merchants to buy fuel farther from the state line, boosting supplies for New Jersey motorists who need fuel to get to work and do their jobs.”
But what happens when a lack of power and the need for liquid gold meet? Disputes that can quickly boil over like the one that occurred in Parsippany Wednesday afternoon.
At the Raceway gas station on Route 10, a line of of cars stretched down the highway for nearly a mile, and on the other side, walk-up patrons stood idly by with gas cans used to fill their generators, Mendham-Chester Patch Editor Russ Crespolini said.
One driver demanded the line of can-carriers explain where they had come from.
“I’ve been waiting in my car for two hours and you just walked up here with your can?” one angry motorist said.
At that point, a 30-minute delay ensued as the computer system controlling the pumps shut down, Crespolini said.
When the pumps were reactivated, tempers flared again, as a scuffle between two can carriers broke out when one of the men filled his pick-up truck with gas after topping off his gas can, Crespolini said.
The fighting was for naught, however, since the pump activation only lasted two minutes, and all remaining consumers were sent home empty handed.
A line of cars 50 deep on Bloomfield Avenue in Caldwell were turned away Wednesday afternoon, when cones were placed in front of pumps at 2:30 p.m. after residents filled cars and gas cans all morning, according to Caldwells Patch Editor Teresa Akersten.
Earlier in the day, Maria Bermingham of Cedar Grove was about 20th in line. She said she was filling up gas cans for her father’s generator and for her own generator, which her husband purchased Wednesday morning to power the house.
Gas in Chatham wasn’t truly a commodity, as the Gulf station in the borough held regular hours all day. With that, however, came extremely long lines.
Beggars couldn’t be choosers in Hasbrouck Heights, where just one station was pumping. The Citgo on Williams and Terrace could only offer premium fuel as the day wore on.
In Bloomfield, officials said gas stations in town were the only ones in the immediate area to have power. For that reason, drivers from Belleville, Newark and Nutley had to wait on unbelievably long lines to fill their tanks, with some waiting for close to two hours.
Patch editors from across Northern New Jersey contributed to this report.
What's your story? How long did you wait in line for gas since Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey? Tell us in the comments section and upload your own photos.