Even with school closed and tons of businesses still lacking power across the region, drivers contended with much more than weekday traffic as they traveled through Brewster and Southeast Friday.
The debris from Hurricane Sandy still strewn across roadways caused some folks to take it extra slow on local streets. When tree branches weren't an issue, motorists inched their way through intersections—like the one at Lakeview Plaza on Route 22—where the traffic light wasn't functioning.
But the most visible issue was the shortage of gas. Motorists honked as they maneuvered around scores of vehicles that stretched from gas stations on Routes 6 and 22, as well as Drewville Road.
Around midday Friday, several Brewster and Southeast stations—including BP Master Mart and Gas, Drewville Mart, Gulf, Hess, Williams Service Station and Xtra Mart—were selling gas.
The lines at Mystik Gas were long around 11 a.m., but at about 1 p.m., the scene looked a bit different: orange cones and an empty pump area. The Mobil in Patterson was also out of gas Friday, as was the Shell in Southeast. Staff members there were expecting a normal delivery—about 8,800 gallons—to arrive from Mamaroneck-based NY Fuel Distributors in the afternoon.
"That will last 24 hours," manager Bill Evans said, adding that the station ran out of gas 10 a.m. Monday. Since then, hundreds of folks have called and asked if the store's pumps are flowing.
"Even with all the signs, people pull in and try to put their credit card in," Evans said with a laugh.
The economic impact is not a small one—Evans said that the store typically brings in thousands in gas sales each day. He expects things to return back to normal in about a week or so.
But before that can happen, staff members will face big crowds. Clerks will likely stand outside and oversee the pumps. Evans said the station is going with a "post-pay" plan, because there's "no need for two trips."
Gas prices at the Shell should be very close—possibly even within a penny—to where they were Monday morning, Evans said.
Putnam County Director of Consumer Affairs Jean Noel told Patch she has reached out to every gas station in the area and inquired about their product status. The shortages, she said, vary—all of the businesses in Cold Spring were out Friday, but Brewster and Southeast seemed to have a decent amount of product available.
Noel has also spoken to a few residents who reported "inappropriate" price hikes. Those complaints focused on gas alone.
"We're taking complaints, and gathering information, and forwarding to the attorney general," Noel said, adding that County Executive MaryElle Odell is "adamant" that the office works diligently on the issue.
Charging "excessive" prices on essential items—which include food, gas, hotels, medication and water—during an emergency is against New York State law, she said. But deciding which prices are "excessive" versus which are justified, because of additional costs or labor during an emergency, is a responsibility of the New York State attorney general's office.
"We don't want anyone taking advantage," she said. "It's case-by-case. I can't just go by, take a photo and say they're price gouging."