‘Panic buying’ ahead of Hurricane Florence prompts lines at Charlotte gas stations

Don’t be surprised if you see drivers lining up at Charlotte gas stations as they prepare for Hurricane Florence.

You might even see outages at some stations, like the Shell near Highland Creek off Interstate 485, which only had premium gasoline on Wednesday morning. The Shell station on East and South boulevards in Charlotte had trash bags covering several pumps Tuesday morning. An employee of the Circle K on East Boulevard said Tuesday afternoon the station was running low on regular.

Periodic outages at certain stations are to be expected, however, and they don’t indicate a supply problem.

For one, demand is high because people are filling up in anticipation of the heavy rains and strong winds Florence could bring this weekend. The evacuations from the coast are also causing logistical problems for trucks carrying loads of gas to stations farther inland, according to Mike Thornbrugh, manager of public and government affairs for QuikTrip.

“The roads are congested, and you have people filling up,” Thornbrugh said. “With that much congestion going on on highway systems, transport carriers going from point A to point B are slowing down.

“It’s taking longer for (carriers) to pick up the loads of gasoline and return to our stations,” Thornbrugh said, adding that QT has not experienced outages at any of its Charlotte stations yet.

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The Shell gas station at East and South boulevards in Charlotte had bags covering some pumps Tuesday morning. Katherine Peralta

Unlike with Hurricane Harvey last year, there are no oil refineries in the path of Florence, so crude oil processing should not be affected, AAA noted in a press release Tuesday afternoon. Thornbrugh also noted that no pipelines are shut down, nor are oil rigs in the Gulf Coast.

AAA said areas impacted in Hurricane Florence’s path “will likely experience” a disruption in gas deliveries.

“A storm like this causes an increase in demand, primarily due to panic buying. We are experiencing high volumes of tank-topping along the coasts and surrounding areas,” Tiffany Wright AAA Carolinas spokeswoman.

The desire to buy gas ahead of a natural disaster isn’t unwarranted: FEMA recommends that those in the path of the hurricane fill up their gas tank and stock vehicles with non-perishable food and drinking water.

AAA also said customers should expect to see a “dramatic spike” in gas prices at the pump, although the spike is expected to be temporary.

The price of a regular gallon of unleaded gas in the Charlotte region was $2.68 as of early Wednesday, up three cents from a week ago, according to AAA.

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