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    Gas Demand Spikes in Florida

    Threat of storm leaves an estimated 50 percent of stations low or out of fuel in two Florida counties.

    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The now defunct Hurricane Ernesto put Floridians in a gasoline-buying frenzy as they prepared for the storm, causing many retailers in the area to see gas sales soar, and in some cases, leaving gas supplies minimal or even running dry.

    "I've got members selling six times their daily amount," Jim Smith, president of the Florida Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association told the News-Press before the storm. "I'm surprised it is as bad as it is."

    One out of every ten stations in the Miami area has run dry, the newspaper reported. In addition, half of the gas stations in the Miami and Palm Beach counties, and most of those located on Interstate 95, are out of fuel or dangerously low, according to Florida's Emergency Operations Center.

    This might make filling up a little less convenient for consumers. Smith told the newspaper that if consumers drive around, they are likely to find gas, as the shortages are highly localized.

    The situation will subside as stations are refilled, however. Smith told the paper that terminals at shipping ports have an all-time high level of gasoline and diesel, and are currently loading the trucks to get stations back on-line. "The supply situation is fine," Smith told the Miami Herald yesterday. "Based on what I've seen, there can't be anybody else who needs gas out there."

    In separate storm-related news, Marathon Oil has chosen AudienceCentral's Public Information and Emergency Response (PIER) system to support its hurricane preparedness strategy.

    The PIER system will allow Marathon to communicate with employees in the event of a necessary evacuation. The Web-based system allows the company to communicate with employees, media, government officials and community members regardless of location.

    "PIER addresses the people factor, which is often overlooked, yet is one of the most critical aspects of business continuity plans … By allowing a dispersed group of individuals to stay connected to a company's critical communications infrastructure during times of crisis or disaster, PIER assists companies like Marathon to return to normal operations as quickly as possible," said CEO of AudienceCentral Paul Grey.

    Houston-based Marathon Oil has a refining capacity of 974,000 barrels-per-day through its seven refineries in the United States, two of which are in locations susceptible to hurricanes -- Garyville, La., and Texas City, Texas. The company's retail marketing is made up of approximately 5,400 locations in 17 states. Nearly 70 percent of those locations are Marathon branded.

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