The Mast-Head: When Panic Ensued

Montauk was the first to run out, followed shortly by Amagansett

   It’s a toss-up whether the most astonishing thing about the post-Sandy gas lines here was that they happened at all or that they ended so abruptly when the state imposed odd-even rationing.
    For those who were not in the New York-New Jersey region to see it, let me describe what happened. When word spread on the Thursday after the hurricane that supplies were going to run out, a collective freak-out quickly followed. Drivers immediately converged on the gas stations to top off their tanks.
    From what I heard, Montauk was the first to run out, followed shortly by Amagansett. The Internet, particularly Facebook and Twitter, seemed filled with alarming reports, no doubt adding to the sense of doom.
    Elected officials issued statements. The federal government started trucking additional supplies into the region. Nothing helped; the lines of waiting drivers continued to build. Police were tapped to keep order. On the South Fork, a half-hour wait was considered quick.
    Seriously line-averse in my own case, I got lucky early one morning finding an open pump at the Amagansett Mobil, and, until the kids’ school reopened, I was able to keep my driving to a minimum to conserve fuel.
    Today, an odd-numbered day, with my gas-hog truck’s fuel gauge dropping below a quarter of a tank, I’ll have to head to one of the stations. I anticipate all will seem normal — but why now and not a week ago?
    That rationing put an instant end to the lines is pretty good evidence that the lines were created by panic, not a complete loss of supply, which the industry said was crimped but not cut off. Fear made it all much worse than it needed to be.
    But it also made clear just how motor-dependent most of us in the Northeast are and just how much of the non-renewable juice our vehicles drink.