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Gas, like bottled water, is in demand as Hurricane Florence approaches

Tarek Elshik, left, fills gas cans to fuel a generator to refrigerate insulin for his 10-year-old daughter, Yasmeen Elshik’s Type 1 diabetes treatment in case power goes out during Hurricane Florence. He’s at the Exxon station on Western Boulevard in Raleigh, NC.
Tarek Elshik, left, fills gas cans to fuel a generator to refrigerate insulin for his 10-year-old daughter, Yasmeen Elshik’s Type 1 diabetes treatment in case power goes out during Hurricane Florence. He’s at the Exxon station on Western Boulevard in Raleigh, NC. ctoth@newsobserver.com

Bottled water isn’t the only liquid people are buying ahead of Hurricane Florence. There’s been a run on gasoline in the Triangle as well.

Gas stations have been doing brisker-than-usual business this week, as people fill up before Florence arrives Thursday.

Some stations have even run out of gas. The tanks at the Circle K at Ten Ten Road and U.S. 1 in Apex went dry about 8 a.m. Tuesday, said manager Tony Marino.

“Lot of panicking, I guess,” Marino said. At 2 p.m., the handles on all 20 pumps were still covered in plastic bags, but Marino said he expected the truck to arrive with more fuel at any time.

The outages were spotty. At least five gas stations along Ten Ten Road were without gas Tuesday afternoon, including two more Circle Ks. But people were still pumping along Western Boulevard and South Saunders Street in Raleigh and Fayetteville Road in Garner, with lines no longer than one or two cars. At some stations, there was no wait at all.

The company that owns Pilot and Flying J travel centers said all of its stations in the Carolinas were operational and busy as of 11 a.m. “These locations are experiencing high demand for gasoline,” the company posted on Twitter. “Please expect heavy traffic going into the locations.”

The inclination to buy gas is the same that drives sales of bottled water and other staples, as people try to prepare for the worst.

At the Valero station at Ten Ten and Holly Springs roads, the bottled water was gone Tuesday afternoon, as were the propane tanks, after all 22 sold on Monday, said Davender Sudini, who manned the register. Outside, seven of the fuel pumps were out, but one still contained about a hundred gallons.

When a driver pulled up, a line five deep quickly formed behind him. Second in line was Ginger Palmer of Apex, who was on her way back from Durham and looking to top her tank with a couple of gallons “in case we have to leave.” Palmer said she had passed other empty stations before coming upon the Valero.

“You should have seen Durham,” she said. “Completely backed up.”

Any shortages of fuel will likely be short lived, with the pipelines that bring gas and diesel to the region from the Gulf Coast still operating. Like Marino at the Circle K, Valero owner Tamiko Holland said she expected a shipment of gas to arrive any time Tuesday.

AAA said Monday that it anticipated gas prices to jump in advance of the storm. “Motorists can expect spikes in pump prices to be brief but possibly dramatic,” said spokeswoman Jeanette Casselano.

But there was little evidence of that Tuesday or Wednesday. Statewide, the average price for regular unleaded barely changed overnight Monday and was up less than a penny by Wednesday morning, and at $2.674 a gallon was still below where it was a month ago, according to AAA.

Some gas price apps, including GasBuddy, also indicate which stations have gas.

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Richard Stradling: 919-829-4739, @RStradling
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