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ATLANTA – It has been weeks since Hurricane Gustav began a slowdown of refinery operations in the Gulf, which was quickly magnified by Hurricane Ike. As a result, gas shortages in Southeastern states continue to hit crisis levels with closed pumps, long lines and frustrated motorists.
In Atlanta, AAA reported more than half of gas stations were without fuel this weekend. The Energy Department reported five refineries that produce about 5 percent of the nation’s total gasoline supplies remained closed and several other refineries were still working at less than full capacity.
Gary Harris, executive director of the North Carolina Petroleum and Convenience Marketers, whose members sell about 90 percent of the gasoline in North Carolina, told USA Today he expected two to four more weeks of shortages. "There was a lot of panic buying fueled by media coverage of the shortage," he said. "Now, it’s hard to catch up."
Marylee Booth, executive director of the Tennessee Oil Marketers Association, told the paper panic-buying motorists who were filling up every time they passed a station with fuel contributed greatly to the problem that has recently shown signs of improvement.
"If people saw a tanker drive up to a station, they’d start lining up. The panic has died down. It’s getting a little better every day," Booth told USA Today.
However, not all stations are fairing well. As a result, many operators have placed limits on fuel purchases. In Greensboro, N.C., for example, a local Shell station short on fuel set a $50 limit on all fuel purchases. In other locations, motorists have camped out waiting for tankers to arrive.
The gas shortage has hit hardest in metro Atlanta, Nashville, Tenn., and the Carolinas, including the Charlotte area and the mountain towns to the west.