The storm is gone — the crisis continues.
This is nothing surprising. It happens after every disaster. Survivors who are grateful to be alive in the immediate aftermath of the disaster become frustrated and self-centered as the abnormal situation is prolonged.
An example is what's happening right now in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. In New Jersey, more than 80% of gas stations are unable to sell gasoline because they are either out of fuel or there is no electricity to operate the pumps. Customers are lined up, shouting at each other and at the business owner. State troopers are deployed to quell the situation. It happens every time. No one should be surprised.
As the power outages persist throughout the entire Northeast, with 20 stated affected, people can't get the supplies they want or need. Transportation is difficult at best, and nonexistent in some places. Communication systems have failed, with cell towers disabled and landlines out of service. There's no power to operate residential furnaces, and the weather is cold and wet.
People who have home generators are out of fuel, and the gas stations (as noted above) are out of action. Barry Levin of Cliffside Park, standing in line at an Exxon station, said, "I'll wait here all night. I need this for my family."
Kevin Beyer, president of the Long Island Gasoline Retailers Association said, "I have gas in the ground but no power. For many others they're facing the opposite problem, with power but no gasoline." He estimated it could take until the end of next week to have all the stations up and running again.
Part of the problem is the government. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie took steps to waive regulations that make it hard for stations to buy fuel from out-of-state suppliers. "When shortages threaten after natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy, fuel buyers need to venture farther from state borders to ensure that their customers get the gasoline and diesel they need," state treasurer Andres Sidamon-Eristoff said.
All I have to add to that is, "duh!" Regulations strangle business, and one of the best time to see that clearly is in the aftermath of a disaster.
And it isn't only gasoline. Commodities that help people through a disaster are in short supply, and people are frustrated because they can't find what they need. A manager at a Lowe's store in Orange, New York said, "You see the worst in people at a time like this. We're trying to be there for them, but they get angry when they can't get batteries or flashlights."
Utility crews are also being abused by residents who are frustrated by how long it's taking to restore power. Angry calls are flooding the utility offices, and there are occasional confrontations on the street where crews are working.
The lesson for us — prepare ahead of time. When a disaster hits, expect to do without some services and commodities. Suck it up and tough it out and quit whining.