Frenetic worry met firm but friendly control Thursday as hundreds of customers lined up at a BP gas station on West Jericho Turnpike in Huntington.
Customers, in cars and on foot, looked to top off their tanks or tamp down their fears that no fuel would be available over the weekend because Hurricane Sandy disrupted deliveries this week.
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Late Thursday afternoon, at least 65 cars waited on the hilly Sheppard Lane to get into the station at the intersection with West Jericho Turnpike while about 25 people waited in a pedestrian line. As one car after another made it into the station, others joined the waiting line.
Owners Rafia and Mirza Aliahmad took a firm but friendly approach, scattering employees around the taped-off lot, allowing cars to enter only once another customer had driven away. Another worker walked up and down the line of cars on Sheppard Lane, stopping at each car to remind drivers that the station was accepting cash only. Others stood guard at a second entrance to head off line jumpers or those oblivious to the yellow tape blocking access.
Customers in the pedestrian line, who were filling fuel cans, chatted amiably, swapping stories about warnings from LIPA to expect their power to be out three weeks, or recalling their experiences during Hurricane Irene last year. Several told stories about long lines at other stations, worried aloud that the fuel would run out before they got to the pump or swapped tips on generator care.
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As people arrived at the pedestrian line, some seem relieved they could actually see the pumps and maintain their hopes of getting fuel. Many were carrying three or more cans of varying sizes and colors.
Employees were unfailingly friendly to the anxiety-ridden customers, with the station offering customers coffee while they waited.
The Aliahmads, who have owned the station since 2002, said they had been busy since reopening for a few hours Wednesday. “It’s been like this all day,” Rafia Aliahmad said. Referring to the loss of power since Hurricane Sandy struck Monday, she said, “It’s an unfortunate situation. But we are trying to keep the community, our neighbors happy,” he said.
“It’s been a steady flow all day long,” Mirza Aliahmad said. And, he said, he did not expect the fuel shortage to be ended quickly.
As the fuel supply dwindled, workers began cutting off new arrivals, though yielded to some pleas to be allowed in line. The fueling continued as darkness fell.
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