SE U.S. Still Suffering from Short Supplies of Fuel.

9/27/2008 05:48:00 PM

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Weeks after Hurricane Ike shut down Gulf Coast refineries and dried up interstate pipelines, some panicked drivers are still waiting in long lines to top off their tanks at the few stations with fuel.

Four refineries remain shut down after Gustav struck the Louisiana coast on Sept. 1 and Ike made landfall in southeast Texas on Sept. 13.  Five plants are restarting, and nine are running at reduced rates.

Southeast Gas Prices

At least 46 million barrels of motor-fuel output was lost between Aug. 30 and Sept. 19, according to the U.S. Energy Department.  Pipelines capable of carrying about 4.9 million barrels a day of gasoline and distillate fuels were shut down or running below capacity.  Alpharetta, Georgia-based Colonial Pipeline Co., the world's largest operator of petroleum-products conduits, continues to ship fuel at reduced rates, spokesman Steve Baker said.  The company's main lines stretching from the Gulf Coast to New York Harbor have been slowed since Sept. 1.

The gas shortage has hit hardest in Atlanta, GA, Nashville, TN and the Carolinas, including the Charlotte area and the mountain towns to the west.  When gas is found, there are long lines to wait in, with up to 45-60 minute wait times  There are also limits on how much gas you can purchase, usually 10 gallons.  And sometimes, the pumps stop just as you pull up to fuel up. Or you get to watch some cutting in line, and basically a brawl ensue.


Clear back on September 4th, the EPA waived clean air requirements for Georgia fuel.  Then on September 11th, an additional waver was issued allowing Georgia and eight other SE states to begin selling "winter transition fuel" earlier than usual.

On September 15, a wavier was issued allowing fuel trucks more hours to deliver fuel and to carry larger loads of fuel to gas stations across the state.

September 22, 2008 Tuesday
Another waver was grated on clean fuel requirements through October 12.

On Tuesday afternoon at a 20-pump QuickTrip station just north of Atlanta, the lines were about 40 cars deep.  It was the only spot in the area with gas to sell, and police said they had been called in often to referee spats over cutting in line.

In Cobb County, motorists waited on a gas truck.  David Craig work up early to look for a way to fill his tank before work.  "Trying to get to Stone Mountain for a job, and we're already two hours late," he said.  But he ended up sitting in line at a station where the pumps never turned on.  "We waited an hour there and we seen this tanker here so we came here and waited a half hour.  Now we finally have gas, so I've been going through this since about five this morning," Craig added.

At a Shell gasoline station this Saturday morning in Atlanta's Midtown district, about 25 drivers waited for a chance to pump what's become a rare commodity.  The line clogged a side street, causing backups on Peachtree, the city's main thoroughfare.

"We got about 12 or 13 cars outside right now," said Randy Akins, assistant manager of the Shell station on Peachtree Street.  "It's crazy.  It's been like this since 6 a.m.  We'll probably be out by lunchtime at this rate.  I don't know when we're going to get more."

When desperate motorists do find gas stations with fuel they are often forced to wait in long, slow moving lines.  Many have waited so long, that their tanks go dry before they can get to a pump.  One driver at a QuickTrip gas station on Cobb Parkway in Cobb County said he waited for 45 minutes and ran out of gas while in line.

QuickTrip Corp., which runs more than 111 gasoline stations in the Atlanta area, said it shut down fuel pumps at about half its stores and is struggling to keep fuel flowing at those it's keeping on.  Company spokesman Mike Thornburgh said "Don't ask me for a projection [of when fuel is available] because I don't know.  We're scrambling just to try to find fuel."

Plastic grocery bags covered the handles of gas pumps today at some stations in Gwinnett County, northeast of Atlanta.  The overhead sign at QuickTrip in Norcross, Georgia, had blank squares where the price usually hangs.

Another QuickTrip, about two miles away off Interstate 85, was jammed with cars trying to squeeze into lines at pumps that were each at least two deep with drivers waiting to fill up.  There was no premium or mid-grade gas, only regular unleaded.  Tractor trailers were three deep waiting for diesel on the back side of the station.

Meanwhile, the state of Georgia has subpoenaed sales records from 130 gas stations after complaints of price gouging.  One station charged nearly $9 a gallon for regular.



Governor Phil Bredesen said Friday afternoon that the pipeline to Nashville, which had been full only sporadically since Hurricane Ike hit Texas, was running at top capacity.  But that did not seem to stop the run on gas over the weekend.

Fuel supplies in Nashville are up to about 70 percent of capacity from 30 percent earlier this week, Randy Bly regional spokesman for AAA stated.

The Tennessee Petroleum Council said it could take another week or two before the supply returns to normal. 

While gas is in short supply, reports of gas theft are increasing.  On Thursday, Julie Pace was parked outside Governor's Square Mall in Clarksville she noticed someone underneath her vehicle.  The two men claimed they tried to fix a leak beneath her vehicle, but Clarksville police took them to jail for trying to steal gas.



Four out of five stations in Charlotte are empty, according to AAA.  Cities further north and closer to the coast supplemented their fuel supplies with shipments by barge, AAA said.

Drivers camped out overnight in the hope that a shipment of gas would arrive at a station in Charlotte, NC, WSOC-TV reported.  Other drivers felt trapped at home, fearing that their

gas tanks would run dry on the way to or from work.  "This is it; I'm stuck," Shana Roseborough told WSOC.  "I can't go get my child, I can't go get my husband, I can't provide for my family.

The News & Observer of Raleigh reported that Alan Hirsch with Governor Mike Easley's office said the terminal in Spartainburg, S.C., that serves western North Carolina was being refilled Thursday.  Hirsch said the Charlotte terminal was expected to be refilled Friday.

On Friday night, in Northwest Meckelnburg known as "tank town", where oil from the gulf arrives by a pipeline, there were a lot of tankers filling up and heading out.  Even the Federal Motor Carriers Association allowed an "emergency declaration wavier of hours of service requirement" extension that lets truck drivers to work overtime delivering the fuel to the retail outlets.  However, it was reported that gas seemed harder to find than earlier in the day.

But Saturday morning, gas was still difficult to find in Charlotte, and when it was found, there were long lines.  Police had already responded to several gas stations to help with the traffic situation and resolve disputes between customers.  Even the WBTV's news team reported they were having trouble finding gas.  And one of their photographers had to diver to Mooresville to fill up.

Aaron Angel, finally found a station with gas after searching for the past two days.  Unfortunately, while he was in line, Angel ran out.  He had to get help from someone to push his car up the hill.

Another driver stated "I've been to four places, this was the shortest line.  I didn't quite make it.  And I'm stuck at Park Road Shopping Center."  He had to put gas in a 10-gallon can and take it to his car.

Tensions are still running high around the gas stations.  A look at some police reports shows reports of intimidation, assault and theft.  One driver got punched out.  Some stores have resorted to hiring private security to keep things in order.

"It's been pretty easy going and then I have stuff like this," said security guard Lofton as a man driving a Maserati cut in line in.  "That's not fair.  Everybody else has been waiting.  Just because you got a nice car don't jump in front of everybody."

And gas theft is up in Charlotte also.  "It's messed up the entire gas tank, and it's going to be $3,000 to replace," Faison Covington stated after a couple of men tried to steal gas out of Covington's car by punching a hole in the gas tank.


City officials in Asheville have closed the civic center, parks and offices because of the gas shortage.

Police were also monitoring stations that do have gas after reports of fights at pumps between drivers accusing each other of cutting in line.  "It's been a nightmare for everybody," one driver, who found gas, told TV station WHNS.

At one gas station a driver stated that this was the fifth gas station they had been to looking for gas.  There was a purchase limit of 10 gallons.

Some gas station were planning to be closed on Sunday, to make sure there is gas at the start of the workweek.  "I can't catch up, and that's part of the reason we're closin' on Sunday is so that we can get to the point where it will take more than three hours to sell everything we have," a Kounty Line gas station manager stated.


Fort Mill police were busy on Friday directing traffic around one of the few local gas station that has gas to sell.  Cars were lined up 15 to 20 deep around the pumps at PJ's Citgo on Spratt Street.  At around 3 p.m. workers at PJ's said they had about 900 gallons left.

At Love's truck stop on Sutton Road in Fort MIll, more than 30 cars and commercial 18-wheelers were stacked up at around 6:30a. 

In Indian Land, the Gate Petroleum station received a half-tanker of gas, workers there said.  The station typically receives a full tanker three times a day; one each in the morning and at midday and another in late evening.  The tanker quickly attracted customers, and the station was out of gas by 9 a.m.

John Walton at Cobblestone Creek Market and Texaco station in Indian Land said he's been out of gas since Tuesday.  He hopes a tanker will arrive sometime today, but added "I couldn't say when."


Here's one that you haven't heard much about.  There are a few shortages still in Dallas however, they are usually not more than 24 hours at any particular station. 

Even at a major truck stop, the Flying J at I-20 and Bonnie View had no premium unleaded.

Yesterday, Friday, both gas stations around DFW airport were reported to be out of gas at 3:00 pm.


FOX Carolinas
NBC4, Washington DC
Atlanta Journal Constitution
WSB-TV, Atlanta, GA
11Alive, Atlanta, GA
FOX5, Atlanta, GA
WBTV, Charlotte, NC
WCNC, Charlotte, NC
ABC13, Asheville, NC
Fort Mill Times, NC
D Magazine, Dallas, TX

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