Hurricane Sandy: Greetings from Gas Starved NJ‏

Hi Fernando,

I’ve read your book a few times and I actively read your blog for advice and tips and how to be better prepared for disasters both natural and man made.  Before I go further let me give you some background on me.  I live right next to NYC in NJ.  I’ve lived here all my life and through Sept 11th, as well as Hurricane Irene last year.  So far this is the worst disaster I have seen here and what we have experienced in North Jersey/NYC is nothing compared to South Jersey.  In light of all this, I want to give you an up close and personal view of what it is like living in a disaster area right now.  Hopefully others will not need to live through what I am living through.

All of your advice is turning out to be spot on with regards to weapons, riot-like conditions, lack of electricity, lack of modern communications (i.e. cellphone service) and the overall breakdown in society.  Its funny how people become crazy when the electricity is off even though many didn’t have electricity a century ago.  The major issues we are facing aren’t so much related to food or water (yet), being that our water supply for the most part is unaffected by the storm surge.

The biggest issue here is gas.  After Hurricane Irene many people bought generators but never stockpiled gasoline to fuel those generators.  Most of our gas stations have been pumped dry and require police presence to break up fights and to keep some semblance of order here.  And for the stations that do still have gas the wait time is in the hours to get gas.  To give you more information on the gas supply chain for the area, there are refineries literally 20 minutes away near the ports in Newark and Elizabeth; so gas supplies were never an issue.

Commuting is a nightmare right now because some roads are closed down and many don’t have working traffic lights on them so the police have blocked off intersections, effectively increasing commute times and burning away more of the gas in people’s cars.

I filled my tank before the storm hit so I am ok but I am doubtful I will be able to gas back up until sometime next week at best.  One thing I am looking to invest in is a generator that can also run on propane and/or natural gas to bypass the gasoline supply chain.  While I am doing my own research into alternative fuel supplies, I feel that everyone that reads your blog would benefit greatly from an article discussing ways to survive without gasoline or diesel.

Adam in NJ


Hi Adam,

Thanks for your email. Being without electric power never bothered me as much as being without water. That worried me dearly until we had running tap water again (even if that tap water had to be filtered too).

Considering that most people don’t stock up on any emergency food or water stash, it shouldn’t be a surprise to see that they don’t stock up gas for their generators. Keeping a generator without fuel is like having a gun with no ammo.

One thing to look into is public transportation. We’re so used to using our vehicles that we sometimes overlook how convenient and cheap it can be on occasions. For years I used buses and train in spite of having a car, just because it was safer at times (avoiding carjacking) and to save on gas.

These post-Sandy days are times to stay put and preserve as much resources as possible until things get back to normal. There’s not much people can do now if they didn’t prepare ahead of time. It´s getting colder too so that will be an issue. Sounds silly but most people have no idea of what to do to stay warm, they just know how to switch the thermostat on high and sit back to watch TV. I went camping last weekend with my son, today its snowing on that same forest so while not under 0ºC, it was pretty cold. Things like thermal underwear and polar fleece combined with a good jacket and wool cap goes a long way into keeping you warm. Reducing the living space into just living in a room where you may have a kerosene heater or fireplace helps too.(WARNING: make sure you have proper ventilation to avoid Carbon monoxide poisoning ) Thousands of people have die and continue to die because of heating or cooking in confined spaces using open flames without proper ventilation.

You need to have plans A, B and C for your essentials, such as keeping yourself warm and cooking. When our burner broke down last winter we used electric heaters for a couple days, we all slept in the same room to stay warm, also keeping a couple large bottles of natural gas both for cooking and heating as well as some wood for the fireplace. That gives you options, alternatives in case one option goes down. Its also nice to keep logistics simple. One of the things I’d like to do eventually is have a diesel vehicle that during an emergency could use the same fuel used for heating the house, tap into that 1200L  fuel tank if needed.

Regarding generators, a small, quality generator may not light up your entire house but it does use less fuel and can be altered depending on what you need to run.

Stay safe!



Hurricane Sandy: Greetings from Gas Starved NJ‏ — 10 Comments

    • So will shooting yourself in the head or stabbing yourself in the neck. There’s 10 million things that will get you killed if done wrong. I just assume people will do things right, otherwise its impossible to write about anything, including guns, ammo, knives, fire starters, etc. Yes, lock everyone in an airtight room with an open flame will get you killed, do have proper ventilation if thats the case.

      • if you only knew how many people in my country who were supposed to know this died as a result of a closed latch on a chimney before the fire was out in a stove. They wanted to preserve some extra heat and were aware about possible conseqenses just not paid propper attention to make sure the fire is out. If it can be done wrong – it will be, that’s it.

        • I agree but again, pretty much anytihng we can do can be doen wrong in a way that hurts or kills us, from drivng a car, using a firearm or starting a fire.

  1. Generators with no fuel stock? I’ve got a 5000W unit and an 80 gallon barrel of gas. In the U.S. power comes in from the street at 240v. At your breaker box the phases are split up to yield 120v at the outlets. I installed a socket beneath the breaker panel where I plug in my 240v generator. I can power the whole house from the panel. No running orange cables. I have a power utilization plan to conserve fuel. Just need to keep the two refrigerators cold by cycling, and keep batteries charged. I could run the A/C and watch movies on my projector screen but then I’d feel guilty about all those suffering outside who didn’t prepare. Nah, I wouldn’t feel guilty, but it’d cut into my fuel supply.

  2. Ferfal you can run any diesel car on vegetable oil with a little bit of lye in it to thin it out sufficiently for the engine. I used a friends diesel car for a while and filled it at an alternative gas station with this vegetable oil mix. You can also make it yourself. They go Round and collect used oil frm restaurants and convert it to fuel.
    A diesel car would be great in a Post collapse event

    • It’s not a simple oil/lye mixture. The fuel you probably mentioned is called biodiesel, to make biodiesel you have to combine vegetable oil, lye and methanol.

      You can use straight vegetable oil in diesel engines, but it is more viscous and might cause the fuel pump to break. Most simple engines have no trouble using vegetable oil, though.

  3. I found gas bottle heaters far more efficient thn running electrical heaters from a generator. So I would suggest a separation, efficient propane type heater and small generator. I would also recomend a small ups which will both smooth the generator output and keep running for some hours if the generator goes off eg while refuelling or moving it.

  4. The so-called “gouging” issue is an interesting 3-way dynamic. I saw it when Olin stopped selling Black Talons. They went from $16 a box to $65.

    (1) People would buy a single box because that’s all they truly needed. At least everyone could get some.
    (2) With anti-gouging laws even I would have bought all the boxes available at $16.
    (3) If there were rationing there’d be a huge line where you don’t get gouged on money, but on your valuable time.

    It comes down to these three options, with the added insult of rationing having some bureaucrat say who gets how much on what amounts to a whim.

    Gouging, or market pricing, is the most effective method of rationing. However, the typical person lacks the cognitive ability to understand this, particularly in a crisis. My objection is that atypical persons, like myself, pay the price for others’ inability to think. We must stand in line too because they are irrational.

  5. I have a lot of info that would have been great help to the victims of Sandy.They just didn’t take the situation seriously enough.Be prepared to survive.

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