NEPTUNE, N.J. -- When Joe Baron headed into work Wednesday morning, he and his colleagues were told to file for unemployment.
Hurricane Sandy had wiped out all the cars at Baron's Dodge dealership in Bricktown, N.J., drowning a fleet of pickups and new Dodge Darts. Baron, an auto technician, had worked at the dealership for 23 years straight.
"I've worked all my life," Baron said, stunned at his job loss but grateful his family was safe. "Where am I going to go?"
As he spoke, Baron was standing in a line for gas with hundreds of other Sandy survivors in Neptune, N.J. Crippling power outages, combined with the demand for gas to run generators and cars, has led to lines at New Jersey gas stations that stretch down the street and around the block.
On Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Chris Christie's administration asked motorists to be careful when driving near gas stations, "because long lines for fuel are stretching from the service area lots onto the roadways." Around the same time, NJ.com reported that Morristown, a major town in North Jersey, had run out of gas entirely.
That any gas is flowing at all here at the Quality Service Center is a small miracle. On Wednesday morning, the gas station's owner, Jack Pekarchik, teamed up with his friend Robert Palagonia, the owner of Amber Construction, to put gas in some of Palagonia's trucks. Without power, they had to run pumps directly out of the subterranean gas well, powering them with car batteries.
When passersby noticed gas flowing, they asked Pekarchik and Palagonia if they could gas them up. Next thing they knew, the men were filling the gas canisters of hundreds of local residents, at a flat $4 per gallon, cash only, trying to keep the line civil and orderly.
During the afternoon, Pekarchik and Palagonia were worried their makeshift pump operation wouldn't last until dark before failing.
"People don't have a way of getting gas," Pekarchik said. "And we don't have a way of getting rid of it."
Anthony Fiorenzo of Wall Township said he'd waited in line for two hours at a Citgo station before it ran out of fuel. "I was 20 or 30 people back," he said. At the Quality Service Center, Fiorenzo looked to be about 100 people back, but Pekarchik said he had plenty of gas underground.
Mary Ann Hayes, who lives in the neighborhood of Shark River Hills, told HuffPost she'd been waiting in line for an hour, and expected she would be waiting for another one. Hayes said Sandy had spared her garage apartment, but her parents needed gas for a sump pump to get water out of her parents' basement.
"People in my neighborhood have lost everything," she said.
The roads in New Jersey's powerless shore towns were chaotic Wednesday afternoon, as motorists hesitated at traffic lights that had gone dark. Tensions ran high at times outside the gas station, with an argument breaking out over someone allegedly cutting the line, but for the most part people were calm and cooperative, quietly discussing their hardships at they waited with their cans.
Sandy's destruction forced Baron's family to pull together. Although normally it's just himself, his wife and his daughter living in his home around the corner, the house was holding nine people on Wednesday afternoon. They were getting by with the generator for which Baron had come to fetch gas.
There were two large trees down in Baron's yard, but his house was spared. A colleague of his at the dealership had lost both his job and his home to Sandy. Considering that, Baron felt relatively lucky.
"Nobody's hurt," Baron said. As for his job, "You wait, you see, and hopefully you go back to work."
As Baron and his family inched forward, word spread that President Barack Obama was visiting the destruction just a few miles down the street, although almost nobody in the gas line had a way of getting there. And besides, they all had more pressing concerns.
The Huffington Post is eager for insights from our community, especially people with experience in power, infrastructure and engineering, on the adequacy of emergency preparation in advance of Hurricane Sandy, and the degree to which past disasters have informed adequate planning and construction. Please send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org with insights and suggestions for the important questions that need to be asked of relevant private sector and government officials, and point us toward stories that need to be pursued.
Related on HuffPost:
President Barack Obama
In a hastily organized press briefing at the White House, Obama said Monday that his race with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is the furthest thing from his mind as the East Coast braces for what could be its worst storm in history. "I am not worried at this point about the impact on the election. I am worried about the impact on families. I am worried about the impact on our first responders," he said. "The election will take care of itself next week." ... He also sent out a campaign email on Monday urging supporters to heed advice from local authorities and extending an early thank you to first responders. “Michelle and I are keeping everyone in the affected areas in our thoughts and prayers. Be safe,” reads the email, signed by Obama. -- <em><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/29/hurricane-sandy-obama_n_2042403.html?1351610452">HuffPost's Jennifer Bendery and Lynne Peeples </a></em>
Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney took a moment in an overflow room ahead of a campaign rally Monday to express his concern for those in the path of Hurricane Sandy and encourage the people of Ohio to do what they could to help those out east. “I want to mention that our hearts and prayers are with all the people in the storm's path," he said in Avon Lake, Ohio. "Sandy is another devastating hurricane by all accounts, and a lot of people are going to be facing some real tough times as a result of Sandy's fury." He went on to encourage those who can afford it to make a donation to the Red Cross. "If there are other ways that you can help, please take advantage of them because there will be a lot of people that are going to be looking for help and the people in Ohio have big hearts, so we're expecting you to follow through and help out," he said. Romney concluded the rally by echoing his comments from the overflow room. "This looks like another time we all need to come together," he said. -- <em><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/29/mitt-romney-hurricane-sandy_n_2039620.html?1351610466">HuffPost's Elise Foley</a></em>
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) continued his praise of President Barack Obama's work responding to Hurricane Sandy, using a press briefing Monday evening to note that he appreciated the "leadership" Obama was showing in the emergency. Christie, a prominent surrogate for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, said that he and Obama had a private phone conversation on Monday to discuss how the federal government could help New Jersey. He said that Obama told Christie that he could call him directly over the next 48 hours if the state government had issues with federal response to the hurricane in New Jersey. “I appreciate that type of leadership," Christie said of Obama. The Republican governor said most of the call centered on Obama's concern for New Jersey and then he continued to heap praise on the president, saying Obama's work has been "proactive." Christie shortened a campaign trip for Romney to return to New Jersey to handle the storm response. Christie started his praise of Obama during press briefings on Sunday, when he said "appreciated" Obama's outreach to him and the governors of other states being impacted by Hurricane Sandy. During a press briefing on Monday afternoon, Christie described another call he had with Obama and said that the president and his aides have been working to benefit New Jersey. “We appreciate the president’s efforts in that regard," Christie said earlier Monday. "He and his staff worked tremendously hard.” -- <em><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/29/chris-christie-sandy-obama_n_2041673.html">HuffPost's John Celock</a></em>
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo
Newark Mayor Cory Booker
Former Vice President Al Gore
This week, our nation has anxiously watched as Hurricane Sandy lashed the East Coast and caused widespread damage--affecting millions. Now more than ever, our neighbors need our help. Please consider donating or volunteering for your local aid organizations. The images of Sandy’s flooding brought back memories of a similar--albeit smaller scale-- event in Nashville just two years ago. There, unprecedented rainfall caused widespread flooding, wreaking havoc and submerging sections of my hometown. For me, the Nashville flood was a milestone. For many, Hurricane Sandy may prove to be a similar event: a time when the climate crisis—which is often sequestered to the far reaches of our everyday awareness became a reality. While the storm that drenched Nashville was not a tropical cyclone like Hurricane Sandy, both storms were strengthened by the climate crisis. Scientists tell us that by continually dumping 90 million tons of global warming pollution into the atmosphere every single day, we are altering the environment in which all storms develop. As the oceans and atmosphere continue to warm, storms are becoming more energetic and powerful. Hurricane Sandy, and the Nashville flood, were reminders of just that. Other climate-related catastrophes around the world have carried the same message to hundreds of millions. Sandy was also affected by other symptoms of the climate crisis. As the hurricane approached the East Coast, it gathered strength from abnormally warm coastal waters. At the same time, Sandy's storm surge was worsened by a century of sea level rise. Scientists tell us that if we do not reduce our emissions, these problems will only grow worse. Hurricane Sandy is a disturbing sign of things to come. We must heed this warning and act quickly to solve the climate crisis. Dirty energy makes dirty weather.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)
"Our thoughts and prayers rest with the families, friends, and loved ones of all those who have lost their lives in the course of Hurricane Sandy, and our hearts go out to the millions of Americans waking up to destruction and devastation in their homes and communities today. "We are all grateful to the rescue workers and first responders working around-the-clock to save lives, restore power, and deal with the immediate aftermath of the storm. Federal, state, and local authorities have worked hand-in-hand to prepare for and respond to this natural disaster, and we will continue to do so as Americans begin to take stock of the damage, recover, and rebuild. "All Members of Congress stand ready to offer our aid and assistance to communities affected by Hurricane Sandy. As we have done in the past, the American people will stand united to confront the impact of this storm and start the work of recovery."
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.)
Sen. David Vitter (R-La.)
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.)
Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.)
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.)
Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.)
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.)
Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.)
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.)
Rep. Steve Austria (R-Ohio)
Former Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Va.)
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.)
“Hurricane Sandy hit New York and the Northeast hard last night and will complicate life in our region for the coming days. I am astounded at what I have seen in my own congressional district: flooding throughout Coney Island, Battery Park City, and other areas; widespread power outages; felled trees everywhere you look; and some very tragic fatalities. I am grateful to our local responders and laborers, who are doing a tremendous job on emergency response. And, through the President’s declaration of New York as a major disaster area, we will be able to immediately allocate FEMA funds to begin to repair the billions of dollars in damage locally and bring relief to New Yorkers whose lives have been turned upside down.”