NEW YORK — Temperatures plummeted and tension soared in the Northeast, as gasoline supplies continued to dwindle despite furious efforts to bring in fuel. Sandy’s death toll reached 100, and New York called off its famous marathon, despite the mayor’s protestations that it should have taken place as scheduled, as a symbol of resolve.
Government officials moved aggressively to combat the fuel shortage, a critical hurdle to recovery and a threat to commuters, generators, trash trucks, taxis and rescue workers alike.
President Barack Obama yesterday ordered the Energy Department to loan diesel oil from government reserves in Connecticut to emergency responders. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano took the rare step of waiving 92-year-old rules dictating the delivery of petroleum products to Northeast ports, expediting shipments from the Gulf of Mexico.
In New York, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo waived tax and registration requirements on fuel distribution — and insisted that there was “no reason to panic.”
It was evident that millions did not agree.
Lines for fuel stretched for miles and for hours. Some drivers ran out of gas before they could reach the pumps. In Queens, a 35-year-old man was arrested after he lost patience, cut in line and pulled a .25-caliber pistol on motorists who complained. Airlines began taking the costly step of carrying extra fuel on planes.
Authorities said gas availability might not return to normal for several more days.
“All this storm stuff is just driving me crazy,” said bartender Lindsay Benjamin, who walked two hours from her home in Queens to work in Manhattan. “The vibe is very nervous. A lot of people are temperamental.”
Five days after Sandy delivered a staggering blow to the most populous region in the United States and became one of the nation’s costliest natural disasters, there were significant signs of recovery.