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Power Returning After Sandy, But Gas Problems Rise

Updated from 12:52 p.m. EDT with details on increasing gas problems

By Karen Matthews

More New Yorkers got power Saturday for the first time since superstorm Sandy struck the region, but frustrations mounted over gasoline shortages as refueling sites turned into traffic jams of horn-honking confusion.

Gas rationing went into effect in northern New Jersey, while crowds lined up at free fuel distribution sites in New York's boroughs, where a limit of 10 gallons per person was imposed. New York officials then said emergency vehicles had the priority over the public.

"It's chaos, pandemonium out here," said Chris Damon, whose family was displaced from his home in the Queens neighborhood of Far Rockaway and are staying with relatives in Brooklyn. He circled the block for 3½ hours at the Brooklyn Armory, where the National Guard was directing traffic.

"It's ridiculous. No one knows what's going on," he said.

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo had announced that the 5,000-gallon trucks from the Defense Department would set up the emergency mobile gas stations at five locations around the New York City metropolitan area.

"Do not panic. I know there is anxiety about fuel," he said.

After the long lines formed, New York state officials said the public should stay away from the refueling stations until emergency responders first got their gas and more supplies are then made available.

The scene was more orderly in hard-hit Staten Island, where a line of cars stretched for two miles under the supervision of police and National Guard troops. Another 400 people were on foot, carrying gas cans.

As gas rationing went into effect at noon in northern New Jersey, police began enforcing rules to allow only motorists with odd-numbered license plates to refuel. Those with even-numbered plates must wait until Sunday.

Jessica Tisdale of Totowa waited in her Mercedes SUV for 40 minutes at a gas station in Jersey City, but didn't quite understand the rules and was ordered to pull away because of her even-numbered plate.

"Is it the number or the letter?" she asked around 12:10 p.m. "I don't think it's fair. I've been in the line since before noon. I don't think it's fair. There's no clarity."

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