‘Gas panic’ leaves Texas gas stations dry

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Texans who live miles from the flooding and destruction left behind by Tropical Storm Harvey are also feeling the effects of the former hurricane—at the gas pump.

Across the cities of San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas, and the towns and suburbs in between, Texans are waiting in gas station lines, sometimes for an hour or more, to prepare themselves for a gas shortage. However, while several refineries have closed in anticipation of and because of the flooding, a real “shortage” may come from the fear of empty pumps.

According to the Dallas Morning News, as of Wednesday evening, more than a fifth of United States refineries were closed for flooding, including two of the largest in the country. However, industry experts don’t anticipate the shortage surpassing three weeks and becoming a long-term issue. Jesus Azanza, a spokesman for the Texas Food and Fuel Association, has said that the storm has caused primarily “a strain on fuel supply” over a complete shortage, which will end once more refineries are operational, according to the Austin-American Statesman.

Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton attempted to quell “shortage” fears by saying he doesn’t believe the shortage will be an issue in a week. The Railroad Commission regulates Texas oil and gas.

“This is not going to be a long-term issue. As the pipelines get back in shape and people realize that this isn’t as big an issue as it feels like today, this (panic) is going to stem,” Sitton said.

This hasn’t stopped Texans from forming multi-car lines that bleed into street traffic, though—and in some cases, fighting—for a resource they fear could run out of over the next few months.

San Antonio Express-News profiled several people who had gone to as many as eight gas stations before resigning to their fate and settling in a long line. One man even ran out of gas while hopping between six stations, and had to push his car through the long line. Gas station managers aren’t sure how quickly they’ll run out, or be resupplied, and more than 100 stations are reported as dry throughout San Antonio, Texas.

In a vicious cycle, the rising panic has subsequently perpetuated this drain on resources. Social media posts of dry gas pump signs, drivers waiting in lines, and other drivers physically getting out of their vehicles to block other cars and fight has further perpetuated this fear. Instead of fueling their tanks, drivers’ gas anxiety is only fueling the flames.

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