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Loot, Cold, Heating Oil Shortage And Gasoline “Panic Buying”

Loot, Cold, Heating Oil Shortage And Gasoline “Panic Buying”
Are Following Sandy’s Path Of Destruction

04 November, 2012

The superstorm Sandy is now being followed by sporadic incidents of loot, a coming winter shortage of heating oil and gasoline panic buying that tell an economy’s outer face and inner soul.

The New York area has had its share of looting in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy [1].

According to New York Deputy Police Commissioner Paul J. Browne, four women in Far Rockaway, Queens, were arrested Monday after allegedly breaking into a Radio Shack. According to Browne, the women, who ranged in age from 16 to 49, might have been store employees. Radio Shack did not respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

On Wednesday, 18 people were arrested for rifling through a Key Foods in Coney Island, Brooklyn. Two men and a woman were arrested for allegedly robbing a BP gas station, and police arrested six people for allegedly looting a liquor store in the Midwood section of Brooklyn, the New York Police Department confirmed in an email to ABC News.

In Manhattan, four men ages 18 to 30 were arrested and charged with burglary after breaking into Kixclusive, a sneaker store at 288 Mulberry Street on the Lower East Side. Burglars allegedly made off with 30 pairs of sneakers worth $30,000, about $1,000 a pair, according to the NYPD.

Some looters even posed as Con Edison workers to get inside homes, the New York Post reported.

“This morning when they told us the water receded, I walked back to the house to feed [my pets],” Eric Martine, a 33-year-old taxi cab driver who lives in Brooklyn’s Gerritsen Beach, told the Post. “Guys were looting, pretending they were Con Ed and holding people up. It was sick.”

Some people have apparently broadcast their loot and looting messages on Twitter — such as the tweeter who posted an image of a boarded-up house with the words “Please loot, I love to shoot” spray-painted across the doorway. Other photos of people with “stolen goods” have been posted on Twitter with the hashtag #sandylootcrew.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has said there had been no reports of looting in his state. And Newark Mayor Cory Booker tweeted that his city was crime-free: “Police have reported ZERO looting or crimes of opportunity in Newark. And ceaseless reports of acts of kindness abound everywhere #Gratitude.”

Meanwhile, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz urged New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to send National Guard troops to Brooklyn to help out. “All of our resources have been stretched to the limit, but in the name of public safety we need to send more National Guard personnel,” Markowitz said Wednesday in a statement.

Another report [2] on loot said:

So far, there have been more than 30 reported instances of looting. A young woman was arrested in Coney Island for criminal possession of a firearm, when “the safe she was caring from a store was found to contain a firearm,” according to Paul J. Browne, the Deputy Commissioner of the New York City Police Department.

The New York Post also reported that witnesses saw looters rummaging through Ann Taylor and Brookstone merchandise in Rockaway. And on Long Island, four men were arrested and charged with planning to loot a business damaged in the storm, according to reports by CBS news.

New York City is devoting special resources to areas that have already been susceptible to post-storm thievery. According to Deputy Commissioner Browne, “police presence was stepped up along Mermaid Avenue and its vicinity, and additional light towers were erected.”

Deputy Commissioner Browne said that there was no additional looting in Coney Island after the NYPD increased police presence there.

Looting is not unique to Sandy’s aftermath. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and Hurricane Irene, dozens of looting incidents were reported in New Orleans and New York City, respectively.

The New York Daily News caught up with an alleged looter on Tuesday, who defended his actions, saying, “Look, they’ve been looting our wallets for too long,” as he took a TV from a Rent-A-Center in Coney Island. “It’s about time we start taking this sh—back,” he added.

Witnesses of looting near Coney Island told The Wall Street Journal that it was occurring in plain sight, and that police officers did little to stop it.

“When I came out at about 8:30 a.m. this morning, there were people coming out of all these stores, guys carrying Hefty bags,” Roger McKinon, 40 years old, who lives in Coney Island told the Wall Street Journal. “The crazy thing was, there were cops around but all they were saying is getting out of here, go home.”

The NYPD did not immediately respond to request for comment.

NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly announced on Thursday afternoon that 18 individuals were arrested for looting at a Key Foods in Coney Island, and 2 more were arrested in Staten Island. The story has been updated to reflect these additional lootings

The Wall Street Journal in a report [3] on October 30, 2012 said:

None of the crimes were violent and no officers or civilians were injured.

Police set up a mobile command center Tuesday.

By Tuesday afternoon, uniformed officers had established a visible presence on the streets and corners, where business owners said they had to contend with sporadic incidents of looting.

Eddie Liu arrived at his ocean-facing laundromat, American Suds, in Coney Island on Tuesday morning to find its front blasted open and filled with people.

“There were a bunch of people, like a market,” Mr. Liu said.

The crowd was apparently indifferent to the area’s big police presence, Mr. Lui said. They dispersed upon his arrival, but not before burglarizing his business, shattering glass displays, swiping soap and pilfering cash from the till, he said.

Witnesses said the police appeared temporarily overwhelmed by the looters. “When I came out at about 8:30 this morning, there were people coming out of all these stores, guys carrying Hefty bags,” said Roger McKinon, 40 years old, who lives in the nearby O’Dwyer Garden Houses. “The crazy thing was, there were cops around but all they were saying is get out of here, go home.”

By late afternoon, vans full of officers were patrolling and stopped to order small gatherings of people to disperse—triggering shouting and shoving.

Ali Khalid, 56, the owner of 99 Cent Express on Mermaid Avenue, said his store was looted between 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. when he left to pick up a worker.

“I asked the police what I should do. They said they didn’t know,” he said. “I can’t close the door and I’m not staying here tonight. It’s scary here now.”

Amy Lieberman reported further in Christian Science Monitor [4]:

No lights powered on inside the modest one and two-story houses, as they haven’t for the past five nights, since Hurricane Sandy

Residents describe the Rockaways as a family friendly place, with certain pockets of rough neighborhoods.

But some people say Sandy’s aftereffect of darkness is making the area more dangerous, resulting in looting and at-home robberies, despite an increased police presence.

“I saw this guy stealing televisions from a nursing home right on the boardwalk on Tuesday, and the workers were chasing him up the street,” said Ben Cooper, who lives in Belle Harbor. “Every time I saw him he had a different TV.”

Mr. Cooper and a few friends stood talking on his house’s porch. It was about 7:45 p.m. and they were the only people around.

“There’s no light, there’s no cameras, there’s no alarms, there’s no nothing. It’s kind of scary, you know?” he said.

His neighbor, Talentin Gutierez showed a reporter a borrowed generator, worth about $2,000. His was robbed the other day. Tonight, he will sleep in his car – wrecked from water damage – to guard the generator.

An hour later, a New York City Police Department officer looked on as four National Guards unloaded cases of bottled water and ready-to-eat emergency food packs outside a recently launched community center half a block away.

Looting and robberies have been up across all of New York City since Sandy hit, said the officer.

Reported arrests in Manhattan, Coney Island, Brooklyn, and Staten Island for looting at businesses like supermarkets and sneaker stores totaled 20 last week.

In New Jersey, the Monmouth County prosecutor was quoted as saying that police made 25 arrests for burglaries and looting incidents. But Governor Chris Christie has said that there is no evidence of widespread looting in the state.

Back in the Rockaways, about 20 blocks away from Belle Harbor, Candice Dugar waited in line for soup nearby a well-lit police precinct. She said she heard about a break-in at a sneaker store, Lee’s, and a local convenience store nearby a group of public housing projects.

Melvin Flemings said a group of men looted a liquor store near the police precinct in this neighborhood, Rockaway Park, and are now selling the alcohol on the beach.

Not everyone in the neighborhood has heard of looting and robberies since Sandy.

“I haven’t heard anything, but if they are taking from the grocery stores, it’s because they need it,” said Rebecca Kelly talking as she ate a cup of soup. “There’s no grocery stores open.”

The community center, one of several that have popped up since Sandy, was one of the few places lit as the night thickened and the streets cleared of people. It’s powered by solar panels from a Greenpeace truck, which arrived Thursday with groups of volunteers and former Occupy Wall Street demonstrators.

Two local women helped out inside the center, passing out food and clothing. They waited until after 10 p.m. for friends to accompany them on their 5 minute walk home. They are afraid of more than just petty crime, a concern they never had before they lost electricity.

One older woman, who asked only to be identified by her first name, Rosemary, said someone tried to break into her house early Tuesday morning when she was asleep. Today, she found her front door frame ripped off.

“Everything is dark. People take advantage of that factor. It’s only normal. It’s not only here,” she said.

Beatrice Loperfito witnessed two separate attempted home robberies last night. “I heard them breaking windows and I went out with my flashlight. These guys ran and the cops came.”

The women and the rest of the volunteers eventually left and the lingering community center volunteers locked its doors close to 11 p.m., leaving bread and water outside.

As some heating oil distributors have already been forced to ration supplies Reuters reported [5] from New York on the coming cold:

Northeast residents lucky enough to have a roof after Hurricane Sandy struck now face a new problem: a heating oil shortage and widespread power outages mean some homes may go cold as the weather turns wintry.

A cold snap in the New York City area – with daily low temperatures set to drop into the upper 30s Fahrenheit (2-4 degrees Celsius) early next week – is raising concerns that residents of the storm-stricken areas of New York, New Jersey or Connecticut could be left without heat as they recover from one of the worst storms in U.S. history.

Some New York area heating oil distributors have already been forced to ration supplies. The fuel is used in nearly 5.8 million homes in the Northeast, the world’s largest heating oil market. In some storm hit areas, distribution has nearly collapsed.

Heating oil is usually dispatched in fleets of tanker trucks to boiler rooms in thousands of residential buildings and businesses. But on Friday, supplies were dwindling at many distribution centers in New York City and parts of New Jersey.

In addition, nearly 3.5 million homes and business were without power on Friday along the East Coast. While that number will likely diminish by next week, those without power that use heating oil will have limited options to stave off the cold.

Government attempts to alleviate the shortage by releasing strategic reserves of heating oil are unlikely to provide much relief, given the scope of the problem facing distributors.

Concerns are compounded by forecasts for unseasonably cold weather. In New York City, temperatures are expected to dip to between 3 and 10 degrees Fahrenheit below average for early November, said Bradley Harvey, meteorologist at MDA Information Systems in Maryland.

In the industrial Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn on Friday, heating oil distributors who typically supply buildings across the city said they were nearly out of fuel and had no idea when new supplies would arrive.

Some of the region’s fuel terminals which offload products from tankers and barges have no power, and at least two important oil refineries in New Jersey remain idled after the storm flooded the plants this week.

“This is the last of it,” said Nick DeMaria, a manager at Bayside Fuel Oil Depot in Brooklyn, whose fuel supply was dwindling. “I’ve got a line of trucks down the block and they’re not getting anything. When it gets cold, people are going to need their heat.”

News that the U.S. government will release about 48,000 barrels of ultra low sulfur diesel from its Northeast emergency heating oil reserve in an effort will likely help compensate for increased diesel demand due to emergency response efforts.

But it is only equivalent to 8 hours of New York State’s peak winter heating oil consumption, according to Reuters calculations.

To be sure, there were signs that a heating crunch could be short-lived. New York Harbor, the region’s fuel importing hub, received its first gasoline barge on Friday morning, and the federal government issued a temporary waiver of the shipping Jones Act, to allow foreign-flagged tankers take fuel from the US Gulf Coast to the harbor.

Meanwhile, electric utilities made inroads to restore power to residents in some areas, and a mild October has likely left many buildings with stores of heating fuel as they wait for normal distribution to resume.

But while activities have restarted in New York Harbor – which has a tank capacity to store up to 75 million barrels of oil products – logistical hurdles still plague the region.

In Brooklyn, Bayside has not been able to schedule new deliveries of heating fuel to its depot, due to storm-related damages to the bridges over small waterways that connect New York Harbor to Brooklyn, DeMaria said.

A few blocks away, at the offices of fuel distributor Statewide Oil and Heating, a small crew of workers was attending to phones that were ringing off the hook. Statewide was informing customers it would have to ration heating oil deliveries to 100 gallons per building.

“There’s no heating oil around,” said Vincent Savino, the president of Statewide, which usually supplies some 2,000 buildings across New York City.

“I don’t know how much fuel we have left: maybe a day or two,” Savino said.

Even before Sandy, heating oil supplies in the East Coast region were unseasonably low. Distillate stocks, which include heating oil and diesel fuel, stood at 45 percent below their 5-year average along the East Coast in the week to October 12, according to US government figures. That was the lowest level since mid-2008.

In addition, it was unclear when two New Jersey refineries shuttered by Sandy, Phillips 66’s 238,000 barrel per day Bayway plant and Hess Corp’s 70,000 barrel per day facility, would resume operations.

But in the more immediate term, the biggest problem could find fuel for delivery trucks, as many gasoline stations have been left dry or without power.

Joan Clune, who helps to run the Sprague Oil Service distribution center in Matawan, New Jersey, said it was already running low on truck fuel and wasn’t sure when new supplies would become available. Sprague said she was still able to deliver to customers, including supplying kerosene for lamps portable stoves and some home heating devices, for now.

“We can’t even get heating oil supplies right now beyond what we still have in our trucks,” Clune said.

New York fuel “panic” grows even as ports open, reserves tapped

From New York Reuters added [6]:

A third day of gasoline “panic buying” among storm-stricken New York area motorists prompted authorities on Friday to tap strategic oil reserves and waive shipping regulations even as limited deliveries resumed in the battered region.

The U.S. government said it will loan 2 million gallons of diesel from the Northeast emergency heating oil reserve to the military for recovery efforts, and waived rules barring foreign-flagged vessels from carrying fuel between U.S. ports in a bid to boost supplies.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he would temporarily lift tax and registration requirements on tankers docking in the New York Harbor, which had just reopened to oil vessels. The main fuel pipeline from the Gulf Coast region also resumed shipments on Friday, while a handful of oil storage terminals also began shipping out fuel again under generator power.

“There should be a real change in conditions and people should see it quickly,” Cuomo said.

While the waivers sent benchmark New York gasoline futures 2 percent lower, they will do little to address the biggest obstacle to getting fuel to consumers: the power outages that have shut nearly two-thirds of the filling stations in the New Jersey and New York City area and are still hindering service at major oil terminals and refineries along the harbor.

Faced with losing another day of business, William Torrens got up at 5 a.m. in East Rutherford, New Jersey, to queue for fuel. The owner of All Clear Plumbing waited for four hours in a six-block line at a Sunoco station before finally getting gasoline for his truck and home generator.

“I haven’t seen something like this since I was a kid and there was a gas shortage,” Torrens said, adding the shortage was costing his business money.

“I can’t spare a truck to sit for four hours in line. When my guys run out of gas, they’re going to have to sit.”

In Brooklyn, taxi drivers hunted for fuel. Long lines formed outside even empty stations after rumors spread they would soon receive fuel deliveries. Officials said the number of cabs on the road by Friday morning was down 24 percent from last week.

By the end of the Friday, motorist group AAA said the situation was slowly improving as some areas had their power restored. But the U.S. Energy Information Administration said two-thirds of service stations in the New York City area were still without gasoline for sale.

Prices at the pump have remained steady despite the shortages, AAA said, averaging just below $4 a gallon in New York City, 2 cents lower than last week. However, on Long Island, where only a third of all stations were working, average gasoline prices jumped 5 cents from a day earlier.

But online, Craigslist users started offering gasoline for as much as $15 a gallon to motorists and homeowners not wishing to brave the lines.

There were some signs the situation could improve as the complex New York Harbor network of terminals, storage tanks and pipelines was finally returning to service.

Speaking with Governor Cuomo at a press conference, Rear Admiral Daniel Abel of the US Coast Guard said fuel barges in New York Harbor may be allowed to pump gasoline directly from barges into oil tanker trucks waiting on the dock.

“We’re looking at creative alternatives,” Abel said. “They (can) hose the fuel directly from the barge to a truck, if they can do that safely.”

An oil tanker carrying 2 million gallons of gasoline docked overnight in Newburgh, New York, 60 miles north of Manhattan. Other ships were finally offloading cargoes in the harbor after being stuck at anchor for the past week.

Colonial Pipeline, a 5,500-mile (8,900-km) network that runs from the Gulf Coast refining center up the eastern seaboard, said late on Thursday it had resumed fuel deliveries at its Linden facility in New Jersey, the terminus of the line.

The US Department of Energy said late Friday it will loan diesel from the Northeast emergency heating oil reserve to the military to distribute to emergency responders in New York and New Jersey, starting as early as Saturday.

It is only the second time the U.S. government’s emergency Home Heating Oil Reserve has been tapped since it was established by President Bill Clinton in 2000.

But many problems remain. Phillips 66 Bayway refinery in New Jersey, known as “the gasoline machine” by oil traders, may be shut for weeks due to flood damage, a source familiar with operations said. The company has said that a decision on when to reopen will be made “once all assessments are complete.” A third of the region’s refining capacity was shut by the storm.

Phillips’ Linden fuel terminal was supplying only emergency response vehicles as of Friday afternoon.

The majority of oil terminals around New York Harbor remain shut without power, while some were damaged in the storm. They already have gasoline in their storage tanks, but without electricity they cannot move it into tanker trucks for distribution.

Terminal operator Buckeye Partners LP said the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was helping to bring power generators to terminals. FEMA spokesman Lars Anderson confirmed in a blog post that the agency is “coordinating with states and the private sector to accelerate the distribution of fuel to retail locations.”

But those measures were cold comfort to residents stuck in hours-long queues, often with no guarantee that supplies would be available when they got to the front of the line – or that enough power would be restored to get more stations open.

The situation was wearing on people in the region. Juliana Smith, a full-time student, spent 2-1/2 hours in line to fill two five-gallon containers on Friday, an hour more than on Thursday.

“It’s psychotic,” she said. “People are angry. We have no power. No heat. We need gas for the generator and our Ford Explorer, which is a monster.”

The fuel crisis cut traffic over Manhattan’s main bridges and tunnels by nearly 50 percent from normal, with some frustrated commuters and taxi drivers choosing to stay home rather than search out scarce fuel.

There was “panic buying” in the region, Hess Corp Chairman and Chief Executive John Hess said on a conference call.

Travel across the three main bridges and tunnels to Manhattan were down 47 percent from normal on Friday morning, according to data from the Port Authority.

Rumors circulated on social media about which sites had gas or were due to take a delivery.

[1] KMAS News Radio, http://www.masoncountydailynews.com/news/national-news/42649-looters-arrested-in-post-superstorm-spree

[2] ABC News, Cristina Costantini, “Looters Prey On Sandy’s Hardest Hit”, Nov. 2, 2012, http://abcnews.go.com/ABC_Univision/News/looters-prey-sandys-hardest-hit/story?id=17610984

[3] Tamer El-Ghobashy, Andrew Strickler and Ryan Dezember, “Looting Arrests Made”,

[4] “ Hurricane Sandy’s darker side: Looting and other crime”, http://news.yahoo.com/hurricane-sandys-darker-side-looting-other-crime-190000049.html

[5] Joshua Schneyer and Edward McAllister, “As cold snap looms, Sandy sets NY up for a new fuel crisis”, http://news.yahoo.com/cold-snap-looms-sandy-sets-ny-fuel-crisis-041513851.html

[6] David Sheppard and Jonathan Spicer,http://news.yahoo.com/fuel-pipeline-resumes-jersey-deliveries-gasoline-lines-linger-130057461.html

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