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The videos of people waiting in line are surreal.
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.
Because of the high demand and low supply, the cost of gas has inevitably risen. At Dallas-area gas stations, Dallas Morning News reports that right before Harvey, gas rose from $2.22 a gallon to $2.42. By Thursday, gas stations were charging $2.99 or more.
In Austin, the average price for regular unleaded gasoline has risen to $2.23 on Thursday from $2.19 just a day prior, the Statesman reported. In Houston, gas rose from $2.17 on Wednesday to $2.19 on Thursday.
So gas is actually limited here in the DFW......— ّprince ali (@ALI_M0HAMED) August 31, 2017
go fill up now if you can find a gas station that has gas! pic.twitter.com/aUj47KcXJ7
Using GasBuddy’s availability tracker, drivers can see how this panic has drained the pumps without having to wait in line themselves.
With Labor Day Weekend looming, demand is unlikely to fall, but at the very least, Texans can help themselves (and others) by planning ahead, and calming down.
“Please purchase gas as you would normally do,” San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said in a statement. “Don’t be misled by social media, which is causing people to panic and purchase more gas than necessary.”
Samantha Grasso is a former IRL staff writer for the Daily Dot with a reporting emphasis on immigration. Her work has appeared on Los Angeles Magazine, Death And Taxes, Revelist, Texts From Last Night, Austin Monthly, and she has previously contributed to Texas Monthly.