Panic buying may fuel gas shortages in the Tennessee Valley

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Work crews are trying to repair a pipeline that has spilled more than 250,000 gallons of gasoline in a rural area near Birmingham. Colonial Pipeline says most of the gas is contained in a retention pond near the city of Helena, and there’s no public safety concern. (Photo: Colonial Pipeline, via ABC3340.com)

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – A gasoline spill in middle Alabama could have national implications. A state of emergency has been declared in Alabama and Georgia to lift the restrictions on the number of hours that fuel truck drivers can work. That’s to help prevent gas shortages after more than 300-thousand gallons of gas leaked out of a Colonial Pipeline.

The 5,500 mile pipeline begins in Texas and ends in New Jersey, crossing a total of 13 states along the way. The leak happened in a stretch of the pipeline near Helena, Alabama. It was first reported on September 9th, but there’s no official word on when it actually began.

Meanwhile, panic buying was noticed in several areas in and around Huntsville Friday afternoon. Several stations in Fayetteville confirmed they’d been out of all grades of gas most all day. And a lot of motorists were driving towards Huntsville to top off their tanks.

Hartman’s Chevron on Madison Street in Huntsville is the one of the last full service gasoline stations around. They’ve not yet seen a run on gasoline, but they’re expecting it. And they’ve also been told by their distributor to expect gasoline shortages over the next 7 to 10 days.

Across town, the Shell station at Meridian and Oakwood ran out of regular unleaded gasoline Friday afternoon. Their customers didn’t seem that concerned.

Jon Bolan told us, “Good thing my wife’s car is a Prius. This one will probably get parked and we’ll only drive it when we need to.”

Another customer told us panic buying will only make matters worse.

“People could panic and start just filling up everything, like they did when the tornadoes went through,” Chip Padgett said.

But just a few miles north on the Parkway and we found the panic. A cashier at Parsley’s Convenience Store in Park City, Tennessee, says people started lining up around noon and it’s just gotten busier as the day went on.

” At 3 o’clock, they came and gave us about 5,000 gallons of gas. And it is 5:40 right now and we are down to 887 gallons left in unleaded,” according to cashier Jessica Delap. And Jessica expected that to be gone within the hour.

“We’re running out of gas everywhere,” exclaimed Ebony Luna as she filled her tank. She and Matthew Sebastian both have to drive out of town to get to their jobs. They’re worried about the availability and the rising price of gas.

“I got off this morning at maybe 2 A.M., and it was $1.84. Now it’s $2.24,” Sebastian said.

We spoke to a truck driver who delivers gas to the stations. He says they’re already having to jump around from one terminal to the next to find a load of gas to deliver. He says before it’s over with they anticipate having to drive much longer distances to terminals in Memphis or Chattanooga in order to be able to supply gasoline to stations.

Fuel distributors say panic buying will only make the situation worse. They say you only fill up when you need to. And if you notice sharp increases in gas prices, let us know. While some price hikes are to be expected, price gouging is illegal while the state is under this emergency declaration.

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