Storm-Related Gas Shortages Irk Drivers In South With refineries hobbled by Hurricane Ike, gas shortages are popping up across the South. Drivers in Atlanta, Nashville and other places are devising strategies to find gas. One approach: follow a fuel truck to see what station it is filling up.
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Storm-Related Gas Shortages Irk Drivers In South

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Storm-Related Gas Shortages Irk Drivers In South

Storm-Related Gas Shortages Irk Drivers In South

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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

Gas stations across the Southeast have been running out of gas ever since Hurricane Ike struck the Gulf Coast. Because of the storm, refineries had to shut down temporarily, and that affected supply. And that is causing headaches for drivers in parts of Tennessee, Florida, the Carolinas, and Georgia. NPR's Kathy Lohr reports from Atlanta.

(SOUNDBITE OF ENGINES REVVING)

KATHY LOHR: It's a strange site as dozens of cars wait in a line that snakes out of this gas station and onto a main thoroughfare. This station in the north Atlanta suburbs is one of the few around here that has gas.

CORRINA MORALES: I went to seven gas stations.

LOHR: Seven gas stations?

MORALES: Yes.

LOHR: And they were all out?

MORALES: Yes. Every single one of them.

LOHR: Corrina Morales says she doesn't live in this area. She ended up here because her gas tank was empty.

KEISHA JACKSON: It's driving me nuts. I think it's ridiculous, actually.

LOHR: Keisha Jackson says last week, she got gas in the middle of the night when there were no lines, but now she needs to fill up again.

JACKSON: It's pretty crazy, you know. And you can't really blame people for panicking because people have to go to work. People have families to, you know, provide for. And we all need gas in order to be able to do that, you know. So we try to go on with our daily lives as normally as possible, but we cannot do that without gas.

LOHR: Gas supplies in parts of Georgia and the Southeast have been low for at least two weeks. And here's why. Before Hurricanes Gustav and Ike hit, refineries shut down as a precaution. There was little damage. But it takes time for those refineries to come back on line. Some are still not up and running. Even before the hurricanes, gas inventories were at their lowest levels since 1967 according to the Department of Energy. And another issue in Atlanta, the EPA requires stations to carry a cleaner-burning fuel. Right now, that fuel has been hard to get.

RANDY BLY: Overall, gasoline supply still remains fairly thin throughout the Southeast.

LOHR: Randy Bly is a spokesman for AAA Auto Club South.

BLY: And you're going to still see lots of bags on the pump nozzles over the next couple of days. I think that situation is going to improve over the weekend, but I don't look for things to be normal until well into next week.

LOHR: Georgia's Governor Sonny Perdue did get a waiver from the EPA this week to allow the dirtier burning fuel to be sold in Atlanta, and that should help. Officials say the special blend of gas used in the Atlanta area created some of the distribution problem. The governor told reporters there's plenty of fuel in the city.

SONNY PERDUE: It may not be where you're used to getting it, and there may have to be a waiting time to get that. These are all troublesome types of things. But we don't have a crisis in the sense that we had - of no fuel coming.

LOHR: The governor suggested that some of the gas shortage is self-induced, due to people panicking and topping off their tanks. Jim Tudor with the Georgia Association of Convenience Stores agrees.

JIM TUDOR: The whole distribution system throughout the United States is never designed that everybody at every moment can have a full tank of gas. There's simply not enough underground storage in all the gas stations to accommodate that.

LOHR: Tudor says some radio stations have followed tanker trucks and announced where they're delivering the gas, creating long lines once the station does get its supply back. Others are text messaging the same type of information. Many here say what drivers need most is patience. Kathy Lohr, NPR News, Atlanta.

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