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Fueling America

Atlanta gas crunch: 'We've got no gas here'

  • Story Highlights
  • Georgia officials are working to get gas to metro Atlanta as quickly as possible
  • Shortage comes in wake of Hurricanes Ike and Gustav
  • "We're encouraging Georgians to conserve as much as possible"
  • Residents describe long lines, high gas prices
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By Wayne Drash
CNN
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ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Mohammed Hussain got 3,000 gallons of gas delivered to his Chevron station in suburban Atlanta on Saturday. By Sunday morning, all of the gas, priced at $4.39 per gallon for regular unleaded, was gone.

iReporter Michael Lanfreschi said gas lines were 40 cars deep at lunchtime in Alpharetta, Georgia.

iReporter Dustin Gatlin took this photo of a makeshift billboard at an Atlanta gas station.

"We're dry. We've got no gas here," Hussain, the station's manager, said Monday morning.

He said he has "no idea" when the next shipment will come, even though he's been in constant contact with the local terminal.

"It could be days," he said. "Obviously, we're disappointed. We're being patient. That's all we can do."

Across metro Atlanta, drivers in one of the nation's largest commuter cities are running into the same thing: a lack of gas and no clear idea when the situation will get better. State and industry officials say they're working as fast as they can and are urging people not to panic.

Christina Wedge, a resident of the Atlanta suburb Decatur, said her tank was on empty Sunday. When she went to fill up, she passed six stations closed down before finally finding one with gas for nearly $5 a gallon. She got just enough to continue looking for a cheaper price. Video Watch how hurricanes have wreaked havoc with gas in the South »

About a mile away, she found a station with long lines for gas around $4.29.

"I waited 30 minutes to get gas," she said. "It does concern me. I'm actually frustrated that the prices are so high."

Michael Lanfreschi, an iReporter from the suburb of Alpharetta, shared a similar story. He said he left work around noon to fill up his tank "when I started noticing all of the gas stations were empty." iReport.com: Watch gas-thirsty Georgians waiting for tanker

"There was no gas to be found, then panic set in as I approached a gas station with a 40-car line," he said. "This is causing complete chaos. Why is this happening, and what actions are being taken to prevent this from happening again, and why did it happen in the first place?"

According to AAA, Atlanta's drivers are in for sticker shock when they do find a station with gasoline. The average price in metro Atlanta, as of Monday, for a gallon of regular unleaded was $4.02, nearly 30 cents higher than the national average of $3.74. See where gas prices are surging »

The gas supply has taken a major hit as refineries in the Houston area try to get back up to full capacity in the wake of Hurricanes Ike and Gustav, state and industry officials say. The Colonial Pipeline, which typically delivers 100 million gallons of gasoline, aviation fuel and other petroleum products throughout the southeastern United States, is not running at full capacity.

"Since the hurricanes both hit, we have been tapping the reserves of the stockpiles of the fuels that were made before the hurricanes hit, and we've been delivering those," said Steve Baker, a spokesman for the pipeline.

"That's caused us to operate at a reduced rate, less than we're capable of. So that's been part of the problem that we've faced, and we're trying to overcome."

Further complicating matters is that metro Atlanta has more stringent environmental requirements than other areas, meaning gas from other cities can't be brought in because it doesn't meet the city's smog requirements. The state is working with the state energy agency and the Environmental Protection Agency about getting a temporary waiver of that rule, said Bert Brantley, a spokesman for Gov. Sonny Perdue's office.

"I don't want anyone to think that's a panacea," he said.

But he added, "Anything that would help us get another truckload or two ... is going to help the situation."

Brantley said the state has already lifted some regulations allowing for drivers to work more hours to get fuel from the main terminal to stations and for heavier trucks to be allowed to carry larger loads than normal. The state is asking people who don't need to fill up their tanks to wait until later before doing so.

"There's somewhat of a shortage right now, but it certainly could get a lot worse if people were to panic and react in a way that would cause a run and drain what supply there is out there now," Brantley said. "That's why we're encouraging Georgians to conserve as much as possible."

The state would not offer a timeframe on when the situation might return to normal. Brantley, however, said the situation with Houston's refineries is getting better every day.

Jim Tudor, the president of the Georgia Association of Convenience Stores, which represents about 2,600 stores, praised the state for lifting some of the restrictions to allow for quicker delivery of fuel.

"We are working as fast as possible to try to get as many stations refilled," he said. "Having said that, we're still in catch-up mode."

That brings little relief to consumers.

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iReporter Dustin Gatlin said he waited 45 minutes Sunday at an Atlanta QuikTrip before it shut down. He then waited for well over an hour at a different station.

"Yesterday, we were in line for about two hours and they actually had people [who worked for the gas station] out there directing traffic because there were people jumping in line, and they actually had to get people out there to watch," he said.

CNN's Henry Hanks and Nicole Lapin contributed to this report.

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