There's an unfortunate surprise waiting at the end of those long gas lines in the Northeast: sharply higher prices.
Gas prices jumped across New York and New Jersey over the weekend as officials rationed gas from the stations that remained open after Superstorm Sandy. The price increases are a final blow to the region, experts say. They won't spread to other parts of the country.
Outside of the Northeast, gas prices have been dropping, and they're expected to continue to do so. The national average gas price fell to $3.47 per gallon Monday, and it could drop as low as $3.35 per gallon by Thanksgiving, says Patrick DeHaan, a senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy.com.
Prices are currently heading in the other direction in New York, where they rose by an average of 3.4 cents per gallon statewide during the past week, according to AAA's Fuel Gauge Report. Gas prices added 9.4 cents per gallon in New York City. In New Jersey, AAA said a gallon of gas increased by an average of 6.8 cents during the past week and 11.2 cents in Newark.
Is this price gouging? Not really, says Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst with the Oil Price Information Service. Most stations are simply trying to recoup the lost sales for the days they were out of service.
"When you have lines 200 cars long, and everyone's clamoring to get to your station, then yeah, maybe you're going to charge a little markup" for the gas, he says. "If you're charging 50 cents or more, that's gouging. But 5 (cents) to 10 cents, that's not."
What's happening in New York and New Jersey is actually quite normal following a natural disaster. Last year in New Jersey, the state average jumped by nearly 6 cents per gallon after Hurricane Irene slammed into the Atlantic Coast. And prices surged by 24 cents per gallon in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005.