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Fuel shortage expected to last for days, Cuomo says

by NBC News staff and wire reports /  / Updated 

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Image: Man with gas canister
Rick Stotz does aJohn Makely / NBC News

Updated at 5:50 p.m. ET: The fuel shortage that has led to long lines and short tempers across much of the Northeast is likely to continue for at least several more days, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday.

He said that authorities aren't "100 percent sure" when the shortage will end but that it's a short-term problem. 

Cuomo says the fuel delivery and distribution problems from Superstorm Sandy are easing and that more gas is coming to the area and will be distributed. 

He urged people to not use their cars unnecessarily and not to hoard fuel. 

Related: Gas prices plunge, partly due to Sandy

Drivers and pedestrians with bright red canisters continued to endure long lines for gas throughout the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Other customers gave up after finding only closed stations or dry pumps marked with yellow tape or "No Gas" signs.

In New Jersey, fuel rationing based on license plate numbers, ordered by Gov. Chris Christie, entered its second day. Only cars with even numbers could buy gasoline in the state on Sunday.

In Montclair, N.J., some stations ran out of fuel after pumping gasoline on Saturday for cars with odd-numbered plates. This left few stations with gasoline to serve motorists with even-numbered plates , who waited for hours on Sunday. 

"I drove around last night and couldn't find anything," said Kwabena Sintim-Misa as he finally prepared to fill up Friday in Fort Lee, N.J., near the George Washington Bridge, where the wait lasted three hours, according to NBCNewYork.com.

In Cranford, N.J., Rick Stotz was happy to finally get a full canister of gas after waiting at a station where the line was 90 minutes long. He complained that federal authorities were not acting quickly enough to help storm victims.

"I've got no power and no heat for almost five days," said Stotz, of Roselle, N.J.

With the temperature expected to drop into the 20s by Monday, the search for fuel to run generators became increasingly desperate for the nearly 2 million people still without power.

A looming concern was that heating oil supplies were dwindling.

The promise of more fuel sat just offshore in New York Harbor, where eight fuel-carrying tankers were anchored, unable to move due to traffic restrictions still in place after Sandy pummeled the port and clogged it with debris, the Coast Guard said.

Four of the tankers were carrying petroleum products and the other four had crude oil onboard.

Some of the tankers were transferring fuel to light barges that can easily enter the port and deliver supplies to working terminals. 

Power has been restored to New Jersey refineries and pipelines and most filling stations, utility companies reported. But some filling stations still lacked power, rendering their pumps inoperable.

In New York, 27 percent of gas stations surveyed by the Energy Department were without gasoline Sunday, down from 38 percent Saturday. 

On the heating oil front, suppliers were optimistic there would soon be enough supplies, barring any transportation issues in the next few days.

Two terminals with heating oil supplies -- one in the Bronx and one in Brooklyn -- were open for business Sunday, and some barges were expected to deliver heating oil to terminals in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

"If all goes smoothly … we'll have enough for this week and into the next weekend," said John Maniscalco, head of New York Oil Heating Association. 

The Associated Press, Reuters and John Makely of NBC News contributed to this report.

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