Sandy: Five Years Later - Mitigating the fuel issue

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LAWRENCE -

The gasoline supply on Long Island was dire after Superstorm Sandy swept across the region in 2012, and News 12 Long Island is taking a look at what has been done in the interim to keep the gas flowing.

About 1,100, or more than 65 percent, of gas stations on the Island were out of commission after the storm. They either had no fuel or no power to pump that fuel.

In the months after Sandy, Gov. Andrew Cuomo created Fuel NY, a program designed to help gas stations quickly recover after storms. Fuel NY identified 347 critical gas stations on the Island and provided them with grants to install electric transfer switches, which allow a station to easily power its pumps from a portable generator.

The state says up to 250 portable generators could be sent to gas stations in the New York area, including Long Island, in the event of a storm. And by the end of next year, more than 100 permanent generators are expected to be constructed at other Long Island gas stations.

But even if the stations have power, will there be enough gas to pump?

Most of Long Island's gasoline passes through the Lawrence Fuel Terminal. Cliff Hochhauser says it took four days for the terminal to get running after Sandy hit. Since then, the terminal and others have storm-hardened parts of their facilities by elevating equipment and pumps above flood levels. And like the gas stations, the fuel terminals will get emergency generators, if needed.

Some critics have their doubts over whether the storm-hardening procedures are enough to protect infrastructure from another storm.

"We hope they have done something because this was the main point of vulnerability after the storm," says Robert Sinclair Jr., of AAA.

The American Petroleum Institute says it is pleased with the industry's storm response, saying, "The hardening of the U.S. energy network...has improved significantly since Hurricane Sandy through the use of new technologies, capital investments and redundancy."

Meanwhile, some experts say the region should think bigger, possibly building retractable storm surge barriers across harbor entry points similar to those in Europe.

Experts estimate that it could cost billions to build storm-hardening measures like flood gates around New York Harbor.

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