Storm causes gas prices to soar

Published 2:09 pm Monday, September 5, 2005

By By Adam Prestridge
Plastic bags covered gas pumps and yellow caution tape was draped across the front of several gas stations in Atmore as panicked motorists braved long lines to fill up even as prices soared to nearly $3 a gallon.
"It's all you can do," Atmore resident Ray Archer said Thursday after waiting in line for over an hour at the Diamond BP station on Howard Street. "Every station I've been to is the same way. It's terrible that we have to do this. The storm has everything tore up."
Lines began to form as early as Wednesday morning and quickly stations began shutting pumps down as tanks were sucked dry.
"All of our stations have been out at one time or another because the refineries didn't come back up until Wednesday," Tommy White, co-owner of Diamond Oil Company said Friday afternoon.
White said that all of Diamond's stations in Atmore, Brewton, Demopolis, Linden, Grove Hill, Monroeville and Evergreen have had to shut their pumps down at some point since Hurricane Katrina.
"We're also out in Mobile and Gulf Shores," he added. "We've about got them caught back up."
Luticia Tate along with her son Hakeem and sister-in-law Yolanda Griffin drove all the way from Biloxi, Miss., which was hit hard by Katrina, to get gas at the full-service Diamond Station on Nashville Avenue. She said every station she went to was out of gas.
"We drove all the way here just to find gas," Tate said. "From Biloxi all the way here, we stopped everywhere to try to get gas and they don't have any."
The Diamond station on Nashville was one of a few stations with gas Wednesday night. Mobile resident Richard Holliman went on a search for gas Wednesday afternoon and after stopping at several stations up and down Interstate 65, he ended up in Atmore.
"This is the only place we could find," Holliman said. "We headed out north looking for gas. We went to Satsuma, Creola and Bay Minette and this is the first place we've found gas. It reminds me of the pictures you see back when they had the oil embargo with President (President Jimmy) Carter in the late 70's."
Holliman said he made the 40-mile trek north out of necessity.
"We're running on generators and we have to have gas to get back and forth to work," Holliman said. "In some areas in Mobile it's a lot worse than Ivan. The worse thing right now is that there are so many people without power and the power line destruction is a lot worse than it was with Ivan."
Holliman's father, Kenny Jones, who traveled from Russellville, Ark. to deliver a generator to his son, was in awe of the gas price.
"It's unreal," Jones said. "I remember when gas was 30 cents a gallon. To me it's outrageous. There's no call for this. It's going to get worse."
Katrina Williams was in line behind just behind Holliman and Jones and was shocked when it cost her nearly $50 to fill up her mid-sized car.
"Gas is just so outrageously high," she said. "I hate it for the people with SUVs and large vehicles. If it's this high with a mid-size vehicle imagine how much it is for them."
Even though Diamond stations are slowly catching up on lost gas, White said everyone needs to use caution until production increases.
"Everybody needs to conserve," Tommy White said. "Everyone needs to stop riding up and down the roads. We can choose not to buy or pull up to the pump and it not be there. It's not going to be there until all of the refineries are back online. I would suggest everyone try to stay at home."
White said the price increase is a result the gas supply being less than the demand. Some published reports have said that over a thousand oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico were in some way affected by Hurricane Katrina.
Thursday several gas stations throughout the state, including Diamond Oil Company, began limiting the amount of gas sold to individuals.
"Right now we're limiting everyone to $35 at all our stations," "That does not apply to 18-wheelers. We're doing that to communicate to people that there is a limited supply. I think we need to do everything we can to get people to conserve. If it's inconvenient to fill up, then they might not burn fuel as much as they are."
Kathryn Still of Saraland was limited on fuel she received from a local gas station, but was just happy to find a station that still had fuel available. She also said other necessities are slim down south.
"This is a lot better than in Mobile and Saraland," she said. "We waited three and a half hours this morning in Saraland then we came up here. There's no bread anywhere either. It's a lot easier to get bread, batteries and gas here."
With long lines at the pumps tempers can flare.
"Everybody's a lot nicer up here," Still said. "Tempers are hot in Mobile and Saraland. Everybody needs to remember that we're all in this together."
Fortunately Atmore gas stations haven't had to put up with too many hot-tempered customers. Atmore Police Department officers have been directing traffic and patrolling all the gas stations and areas around them.
"Overall it's been pretty good," White said. "We've had a few people try to jump in line and few that don't like that they're limited. You've got to control the crowd and the parking lot."
Robert Ephraim of Pensacola, Fla., who waited in line for nearly an hour at a local gas station, said patience is the key.
"We're having a crisis right now," he said. "We just have to be patient and wait for our turn to get some gas. It's a trying time for everybody right now. We'll just have to stick it out and hope for the better."
Some gas station owners were hit by drive-offs, but once police began patrolling the area thefts ceased.

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