Hurricane Ike prompts run on gas

Published 9:37 am Monday, September 15, 2008

Gas station employees said tension was high as some customers noticed others filling up additional containers of gas. Both the BP in Landrum and Columbus had limited prepay purchases to a maximum of $40.

Gas prices rose by 20 cents or more at area gas stations, hitting $3.99 a gallon for regular by Friday morning in Landrum and $4.19 a gallon for regular in Columbus. Some customers reported that gas prices had jumped to $5 a gallon or more at some stations in Western North Carolina.

Industry analysts reported Friday that it was unclear whether Ike would cause significant supply disruptions, but they forecasted further increases in prices because some refineries in Texas and Louisiana had to shut down in preparation for Hurricane Ike. Some refineries already experienced some production delays because of Hurricane Gustav.

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North Carolina Governor Mike Easley declared on Friday&bsp; a state of &dquo;abnormal market disruption&dquo; under North Carolina law, which charges the Attorney General with enforcing the price gouging statute.

&dquo;As a result of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, oil refineries in Texas and Louisiana have temporarily interrupted some gasoline supplies to the pipelines that serve North Carolina,&dquo; said Gov. Easley. &dquo;Therefore, there may be temporary limitations on our gas supply. However, wholesale gas prices are up less than 20 cents a gallon over the last few days. Therefore, consumers should not see prices rise substantially more than this rise in the wholesale price.&dquo;

Gov. Easley&squo;s executive order temporarily waived size and weight restrictions for vehicles traveling in the state to deliver storm relief, which also includes the delivery of fuel.

&dquo;We know that there will be some supply disruption, but we do not yet know the extent,&dquo; said Gov. Easley. &dquo;Past events of this kind last only a short time. I urge motorists to reasonably conserve gasoline until the situation is clearer.&dquo;

Scenes at local gas stations on Friday were reminiscent of three years ago when Hurricane Katrina disrupted gasoline supply throughout the Southeast.

Two main gas pipelines supplying the region from the Gulf Coast were not operating after Hurricane Katrina because of a lack of power. The pipelines were restarted with generators and rapidly returned toward normal capacity, but not before customers made a run on gas stations, worsening the shortgage.

AAA Carolinas urged motorists on Friday to show restraint until the results of Hurricane Ike&squo;s impact on the Texas refineries are assessed.

&dquo;The run on gas stations in both Carolinas is creating a crisis before one actually exists,&dquo; said David Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas. &dquo;We are making a possibly bad situation reality when motorists top off their tanks.&dquo;