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Fear, hoarding add to gas woes

Filling up — After waiting in lines that have become common at fuel stations across West Volusia, these motorists stock up on gasoline at the RaceTrac station on the south side of DeLand. Those hunting for gasoline may find help online at tracker.gasbuddy.com, and users can report information about where gasoline is available.

Filling up — After waiting in lines that have become common at fuel stations across West Volusia, these motorists stock up on gasoline at the RaceTrac station on the south side of DeLand. Those hunting for gasoline may find help online at tracker.gasbuddy.com, and users can report information about where gasoline is available.

BEACON PHOTO/MARSHA MCLAUGHLIN

Fear and flight are outpacing the efforts of distributors to keep up with Hurricane Irma-related demands for gasoline. 

“The good thing is that relief is on the way. There are major ships making deliveries to Port Canaveral, Port Everglades and Tampa,” AAA Auto Club South spokesman Mark Jenkins said. “There is a problem serving the market. Gas stations will be resupplied by the end of the week.”

Fears about running out of gasoline and being unable to buy it close by are causing many motorists to top off their tanks, which Jenkins noted is adding to the shortages. 

And, short supplies in the midst of panic-buying come as millions are buying gasoline for household generators, while others want to maintain their own reserve.

“Hoarding gasoline actually does more damage than it does good,” Jenkins said.

Irma also inspired a lot of extra driving.  

Shifts in the projected track of the storm caused many in South Florida to drive to Tampa, which itself then turned up in the cross hairs. The exodus of people out of Tampa to other parts of Florida and to neighboring states put additional crunches on the availability of fuel, despite the efforts of Gov. Rick Scott to keep stations in stock and provide tanker trucks with Florida Highway Patrol escorts.  

Jenkins, a DeLandite who works for AAA in Tampa, said he and his family fled north to escape the worst of the storm, thus joining millions of like-minded Floridians.

“We evacuated to Alabama — Birmingham,” Jenkins said. “I took [U.S.] Highway 19 and hugged the Gulf Coast. There were gasoline outages along that route, but we were able to find gas.”

Now that Irma has finished wreaking havoc on Florida, and the exiles begin returning home, Jenkins predicts the abnormal situation will ease.

“It’s just a matter of getting it to stations,” he said. 

A supertanker can haul about 8 million gallons of gasoline to a major port, Jenkins explained.

“That’s the equivalent of about 533,000 fill-ups,” he said.

Florida harbors are now open to receive the cargoes. From the ports are pipelines and facilities for loading gasoline into tanker trucks, each of which holds about 9,000 gallons for delivery to retail stores and stations.

“Now the hurricane has passed, and ships can return,” Jenkins said.

One major retailer in Florida is RaceTrac Petroleum, which has set up a Web page, www.racetrac.com/gasshortage, to aid motorists in their search for gasoline. The site lists the company’s retail stations, by street address, and the grades of fuel available.

“We’re updating it every hour,” said Liz McIntyre, RaceTrac’s communications manager. “If a station’s not on there, it’s out.”

Another resource is tracker.gasbuddy.com, which uses consumer-reported information to provide updates about availability.

- Al Everson, al@beacononlinenews.com

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