New York officials announced plans Thursday to ration gas purchases, as the region continues its struggle to recover from Superstorm Sandy last week.
The rationing applies to drivers in New York City as well as those in Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island. Starting Friday, drivers with license plates ending in even numbers can buy gas on even-numbered days of the month only, while those with license plates ending in odd numbers make their purchases on odd-numbered days. Plates that don't have numbers in them, such as vanity plates, will be counted as odd.
The move comes in response to a gas shortage that emerged last week as traffic jams, shuttered ports and power outages left many gas stations nonoperational following Sandy. Consumers have waited in lines stretching for miles as they seek gas to fuel their vehicles or to power generators.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement that the plan was also prompted in part by "additional fuel supply disruptions caused by the Nor'Easter, which hit the region last night."
Power outages in New York and New Jersey rose from 607,000 customers Wednesday to 666,000 early Thursday following the storm, which dumped several inches of snow on the East Coast.
Officials didn't specify how long the gas rationing plan will be in effect, though New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the fuel shortage in the region could last "possibly another couple of weeks."
Bloomberg called the even-odd system the best way "to cut down the lines and help customers buy gas faster, to help gas stations stay open longer, and to reduce the potential for disorder." Police officers will be deployed at gas stations to enforce the restrictions, which don't apply to commercial vehicles, taxis or the filling of fuel cans.
The plan mimics a rationing program that remains in effect in 12 New Jersey counties, which Governor Chris Christie announced last week. Mike Drewniak, a spokesman for Christie, said Thursday that state officials "believe it has worked, particularly in the more urban and congested areas."
The government's Energy Information Administration estimates that as of Thursday, 28% of the gas stations in the New York metropolitan area don't have gas for sale, down from 38% Wednesday and 67% last week. Bloomberg, meanwhile, estimated that just 25% of gas stations in New York City were open.