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    Gas Shortages Cripple Atlanta and Nashville

    Retailers ask consumers to be patient.

    By W.B. King

    ATLANTA -- The rippling effects of Hurricane Ike are being realized in the greater region here and elsewhere across the Southeast as convenience store and gas station operators struggle to meet supply demands as the balance of tanks run dry.

    "There is a huge demand that has put a drain on the entire system," Mike Thorburgh, manager of public affairs and government relations for QuikTrip, told CSNews Online. "We’re running about 50 percent of all our stores without gas," he said, adding the company operates 111 locations in the greater Atlanta region. "We’re doing our best to keep those 50 percent of stores full [of fuel] and operational 24/7."

    Analysts say the one-two punch of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike caused a production slow down that is still playing out as consumers flood the market. Jeff Lenard of NACS: the Association for Convenience and Petroleum Retailing, told The Associated Press "the system is not equipped for that. The system is equipped for people to buy gas once or twice a week."

    More than a dozen refineries in coastal Texas were shut down or disrupted because of Ike, which accounts for approximately 20 percent of the nation’s gas and diesel production. While power has been restored to 12 Louisiana refineries impacted by Hurricane Gustav, the supply is not expected to increase until the dozen-plus Texas Gulf Coast refineries are fully operational.

    Coupled with the news over the government’s $700 billion dollar bailout of financial institutions, oil prices climbed by more than $25 a barrel in a surge triggered by investor anxiety, reported the AP.

    Thorburgh said QuikTrip is in the same boat as everyone else and is taking a "wait and see approach."

    "We hope it gets better sooner rather than later," he told CSNews Online. "We learned from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and have been through this before so we pre-planned to eliminate frustrations."

    The approximately 55 stores without gas are still operational, noted Thorburgh, adding marquees have been stripped of numbers and pricing to eliminate "false marketing." The stores with gas are determined through a mapping system, said Thorburgh which takes into traffic patters in the quadrants of metro Atlanta.

    "It’s not a pleasant situation, but we’re going to execute our plans and move forward," he told CSNews Online.

    Meanwhile, Nashville is also experiencing severe gasoline shortages. AAA spokesman, Randy Bly, told the AP "you guys [in Nashville] rate No. 1," adding the Tallahassee, Fla., region is also experiencing significant shortages.

    Emily LeRoy, associate director for the Tennessee Oil Marketers Association, told the AP supply shortages and panic buying have created the problem. As long lines form at those gas stations that do have fuel, nine major refineries remained off-line Monday in the Texas Gulf Coast.

    "It takes a while for our retailers to get up and going and restock. We’re asking the public to give us a little breathing room," LeRoy told the AP.

    Jonathan Edwards, who owns approximately 40 stations in southern Middle Tennessee and northeastern Alabama, told the AP that throughout the weekend, his tankers fueling up in Nashville were allowed only 50 percent of their August allocation.

    "But they’ve told me they’re going to bump it up to 100 percent," he told the AP Monday. "Still, it takes a while to erase a two-week deficit. People just need to exercise some restraint. The world is not coming to an end."

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