State Hopes Generator Transfer Switches Will Prevent Gas Crisis As Seen After Sandy

JERICHO, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The devastation from Tropical Storm Harvey in Houston has raised questions about how the Tri-State Area will weather its next hurricane.

As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, no one can forget the havoc wreaked by Superstorm Sandy at the gas pumps back in 2012. Lines snaked for miles, and gas stations were left without power.

The five ensuing years have not faded Andy Harris’ memories of Sandy’s gas crisis.

“Rationing gasoline becomes a real problem with people’s temperaments,” Harris said. “This public is a strange beast when that happens.”

Harris’ Jericho, Long Island service station — Turnpike Service — was crippled without power like most others. Odd-even day rationing was in place, and drivers were desperate for gas in short supply.

Harris’ station and more than 300 others along evacuation routes and major highways now have a required – and New York state-funded – transfer switch ready for hookup to a generator. It will keep the juice, and the gas, flowing.

Generators have been stockpiled in strategic locations, and will be deployed by the state within 24 hours of disaster.

“The program hasn’t been tested yet, so we don’t know how fast it will take the government to get a generator to this location,” Harris said.

“It worries me completely, because will there be enough? Where will they be? How will residents know where they are?” said Town of Hempstead Supervisor Anthony Santino.

Santino prefers his local law – requiring onsite generators at all gas stations. But state laws superseded town law, and as a result, few stations installed actual generators.

They opted for the hookup instead.

Santino said the state law is an improvement, but does not go far enough.

“You will have situation that you’ll have the same gas lines,” he said.

Big fixes have also come to the supply chain. The gas terminals on Long Island were buried underwater.

“The terminals — they’ve raised their generators and lifted things up so they won’t be flooded,” said Kevin Beyer of LI Gasoline Retailers Inc. “Gasoline stations are now considered a priority to have power turned on.”

New York state has also upped its emergency vehicle reserves, and tough lessons in the wake of the disaster with Harvey have provided a heartbreaking refresher course.

In New Jersey, there are 47 gas stations in with permanent generators installed, while 80 have the quick-connect hookups.

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