State officials assured the public that there wasn’t a gasoline shortage in North Texas Aug. 31, but those assurances did not come quickly enough to reassure drivers who already had difficulty finding fuel and were paying more for it when they did find it.
Fuel supplies were impacted to a degree by Hurricane Harvey, but a panic was touched off Wednesday when news of gasoline outages at some stations began to spread on social media. Consumer fears about availability of gasoline led to a self-fulfilling prophecy as the spike in demand made the outages worse.
The situation started Wednesday, and seemed to have peaked on Thursday. By all appearances, the situation was headed back towards normal on Friday afternoon.
Lewisville residents waited in long lines in some cases or had to drive around to find gas. Facebook posts alerted drivers to stations that had run out of gas or that had received tankers and were selling it again.
Wednesday afternoon, social media began to buzz with reports of rising fuel prices and local gas stations that had run out of some or all grades of gasoline. By Wednesday night, as word began to spread, a panic took over, and drivers crowded the few stations that still had gas Wednesday evening, McGee’s Country Store was out of regular and mid-grade gasoline, but was resupplied overnight by a tanker from Douglass. (Photo by Steve Southwell), buying whatever they could.
By Thursday morning, only a few local stations had gasoline, and lines were long. Pictures began to circulate on social media of some consumers hoarding gasoline by filling up buckets, trash cans and water jugs.
It is unsafe to store gasoline in any container not specifically designed for it. Other containers may not be able to handle the vapor pressure and may crack and spill.
Taiquann Dorsey wasn’t able to find a station with gas in Carrollton, where he lives, forcing him to search in Plano, Flower Mound and finally the QuikTrip on S.H. 121 in Lewisville to fill his tank.
“I really hope that we get help, Federal help or anything like that, get reserves that are in other states,” said Dorsey, who discovered the scarcity Thursday morning. “In Texas you have to drive everywhere, so if we’re having a shortage of gas, that’s a problem.”
Some of the drivers at QT filled up gasoline containers in addition to their vehicle’s tanks. Lawncare workers filled up multiple riding lawnmowers.
Osie Harris was instructed by his boss at Rent-A-Center to fill up all the trucks at the S.H. 121 location. Harris said he doesn’t have any concerns with the situation other than for everyone’s safety, referencing fights over fuel he heard of in Dallas.
Otherwise he sees this as beneficial for those making a profit and compared it to the frenzy of Y2K, when people thought the new millennium would bring technological havoc.
“Everybody was out buying water and upgrading electronics and everything else, then nothing,” he said laughing.
Austin Bosch said he noticed many stations were closed as he was driving for Uber before he decided he should find a station. He went down FM 3040 to Morris and made a circuit around the area before making his way to QT.
“This [Labor Day] weekend’s going to be big so I’m worried… I need gas for work, for both my jobs,” said Bosch, who also delivers pizza for Domino’s.
Hurricane Harvey’s landfall on the Texas Gulf Coast last Friday night caused numerous refineries to shut down.
On Wednesday and Thursday, the U.S. Energy Information Administration had released reports noting that 10 refineries were offline, and two were operating at reduced capacity. Together, those shut down refineries accounted for 31.7 percent of the regional capacity and 16.6 percent of national capacity. Six of those refineries were still in the process of restarting as of Friday morning.
Those shutdowns added to consumer fears, but gasoline was still coming to the region from other refineries via pipeline. The Magellan Midstream Partners refined products pipeline between the East Houston terminal and a Dallas distribution center had been temporarily shut down, and flow reversed into the area from Oklahoma refineries. Magellan now reports the pipeline is back open, but they’ll continue to bring gas in from north of the Red River until North Texas can be adequately resupplied.
Douglass Distributing, which operates tanker trucks to provide gasoline to stations such as Exxon, Mobil, Shell and Valero, released a statement on Facebook Thursday afternoon saying supplies were not low but the lines for delivery trucks to retrieve fuel are long because of the shut-down refineries.
“We ask all of our neighbors make fuel purchases as you normally would – the worst thing we can do as a community is all of us showing up at one time to get fuel. This is creating an additional challenge for each delivery,” the statement read. “We do not expect the shortage to last any longer than 1 week.”
Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton told the Texas Tribune that drivers who didn’t need to immediately fill up should be patient. “You’re going to see that these logistical issues will get resolved,” Sitton said. “This is not going to last a long time. There’s nothing in the market that will make anyone not get gasoline.”
Locally, Police Chief Russell Kerbow took to Facebook Friday in a video to reassure local residents.
“Right now there’s a demand on the supply that is currently in our stations’ tanks brought on by people just afraid we’re going to run out of gas,” Kerbow said.
Asserting that there was plenty of fuel to go around, Kerbow said he was sure that in a couple days, everything would smooth out with the fuel supply.
“There’s plenty of fuel to go around,” Kerbow said. “Everybody take it easy and just relax.”
The website GasBuddy.com turned on its gasoline availability tracker, which as of Friday afternoon showed a majority of Metroplex area gas stations still without fuel to sell.
The Lewisville Texan Journal staff drove down S.H. 121 Business and FM 3040 Friday afternoon to check out the gas stations and found that the ones with gas had no lines forming.
This was in contrast to Thursday night when the QuikTrip station on S.H. 121 at Southwest Parkway had cars lined up down that street all the way to Misty Lane. Personnel had been stationed at the entrances to enforce one-way traffic through the station and try to prevent line-jumping.
The hurricane’s impact may still be felt in the prices that drivers pay for gasoline in the near future. According to GasBuddy, the current price for regular unleaded in the Dallas area was $2.54 per gallon — up about 32 cents from last week’s average and 48 cents from the same time last year.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, gasoline futures contracts for September have risen sharply this week, from $1.70 Tuesday to $2.13 Friday afternoon. Futures prices, which represent contracts between producers and wholesalers for delivery of gasoline at a future time, foreshadow future consumer prices.
For updates on gas supply situation in Lewisville, check the LTJ Facebook page.