Panic buying fueling gas station shortages in Tampa Bay, experts say

Polk County

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — State officials and experts are warning people not to fuel the Colonial Pipeline hack crisis by panic buying gasoline.

“The reason we did it first thing this morning was because we saw the Facebook posts all over the place,” said Jennifer Rivenbark, who wanted to avoid a potential shortage.

While waiting in line, Rivenbark said she witnessed two men get into an argument over fuel.

“Two guys just start going at it, arguing because some guy is filling up a bunch of gas cans,” she said. “Finally I just rolled my window down and said, ‘seriously I have a child I have to get to school. I have to get to work.'”

Denise Dominguez grabbed her gas can after seeing posts on social media.

“I heard about it and just wanted to stock up real quick before everything was gone,” she said.

“It’s likely that motorists are seeing reports about supply issues in other states due to the pipeline, and are racing out to top off their tanks,” said Mark Jenkins a spokesperson for AAA.  “The problem is, that surge in demand is what actually creates the supply issue, since gas stations can only hold so much fuel at a given time.”

Florida is not heavily reliant on the Colonial Pipeline. According to AAA, 90% of Florida’s gasoline flows in through our ports on cargo ships.

“This is not a refinery issue. Gasoline is still being made and fuel continues sailing through Florida ports, regardless of whether Colonial Pipeline is operational,” Jenkins said. “Florida is said to have access to plenty of gasoline. It’s now just a matter of getting the fuel where it’s needed, primarily those gas stations that are being tapped out due to panic buying.”

Some gas stations in the bay area had to bag pumps while they waited for fuel.

At the Marathon Gas Station in Lakeland, although they have seen an influx of customers, they did not have concerns of supply.

“Everybody got their gas, we’re not running short,” said employee Elizabeth Floyd.

Floyd said they expect a fuel delivery by the weekend and they would not limit the amount of gas customers could buy unless absolutely necessary.

“If that should happen that we have a line and we don’t have that much gas to handle the influx of people then yes, maybe we would put a limit so everybody could get some. But right now I don’t see it,” said Floyd.

“AAA urges drivers to be calm and not make matters worse by hoarding,” Jenkins said. “Please continue with normal fueling patterns and take only what you need.”

According to AAA, the state average for gas is $2.89 per gallon, 2 cents more than this time last week. 

Colonial Pipeline is expected to announce restart plans on Wednesday. The company previously pledged to restore operations by the end of the week, according to a news release from AAA.

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