You may want to fill up your gas tank while you can.
On the eve of the busy Labor Day holiday weekend, convenience store operators and other gasoline retailers said Wednesday there’s a strong chance they will run out of fuel at some locations this weekend because of supply disruptions caused by Hurricane Harvey.
“I called my family members and told them to fill up their tanks,” said John Benda, who owns three Fuel City stores in Haltom City and Dallas and is building a fourth in Saginaw. “I have never seen it this tight, since 1980, even when we were rationing.”
Multiple refineries have shut down in Houston, Baytown, Port Arthur and other areas slammed by Harvey and the historic flooding that followed. Some pipelines that move fuel out of the Gulf Coast also are down, Benda said.
In southwest Fort Worth, customers at a Kroger gas station near Alta Mesa Boulevard and McCart Avenue were greeted with a sign that read “We apologize for the inconvenience. We are currently out of unleaded and midgrade fuel and awaiting a fuel delivery.”
At a QuikTrip near Eagle Drive and U.S. 377 in Denton, about two-thirds of the gas pumps were shut down late Tuesday. Customers were told the fuel tanks were running low.
QuikTrip, which operates 135 stores in North Texas, plans to stop selling gasoline at roughly half its stores this weekend, spokesman Mike Thornbrugh said.
The company plans to post a list of stores with gas on its website soon to help customers find a station where they can fill up. The stores that run out of gas will remain open for other items such as bagged ice, soft drinks and hot dogs, he said.
“QuikTrip is going to designate certain stores in all quadrants of the Metroplex and make sure those particular stores will have gasoline,” Thornbrugh said. “We have been through this in the southeast Atlantic area. If we tried to keep every store full of gasoline, we’d have outages everywhere.”
QuikTrip doesn’t yet have a timetable for getting all its pumps back up and running, he said.
“Nobody knows the extent of the damage to the pipelines and refineries,” Thornbrugh said. “They’re under water.”
Another major retailer, RaceTrac, is expecting a disruption in its gas supplies. RaceTrac operates 112 stores in North Texas.
“All RaceTrac stores in the Dallas-Fort Worth area currently have gasoline, though there may be some disruption to that supply,” spokeswoman Liz McIntyre said in an email on Wednesday afternoon. “RaceTrac, along with other fuel outlets in the area, is working to get ahead of any supply issues and minimize the disruption caused by the effects of Hurricane Harvey.”
The shrinking supplies have pushed up prices at the pump. Gas prices spiked to an average of $2.39 a gallon in the Fort Worth-Arlington area Wednesday evening, up from about $2.17 a gallon at the start of the week, according to the fuel price tracking website GasBuddy.
Benda said the increase isn’t necessarily a sign that gas station operators are trying to profit from a crisis, but more an attempt to make their dwindling supply of fuel last through the weekend.
Although some refineries may start back up this weekend, it could take a day or two for gasoline supplies to reach storage tanks that dot the Dallas-Fort Worth landscape — and that’s the place where convenience stores get their fuel, a AAA spokesman said.
It’s unclear how widespread the shortages may be.
AAA, which tracks gas prices for travelers, is projecting that any stations that run out of gas for the weekend should be back to normal operations within days.
“Our market analysts are saying it’s possible, but any shortages should be fixed,” AAA spokesman Daniel Armbruster said.