Although Harlan County may be several hundred miles away from the actual devastation effects of Hurricane Ike, residents of the county were lined up at local gas pumps in order to ensure they had gasoline and fuel in case of a long-term shortage.
Employees of Don’s SuperSaver Gas and Triple J Oil said they were expecting to run out of gasoline and fuel by the end of the day on Friday due to the fact that their supplies come from oil companies in Knoxville and they have been reported as being “dry” on fuel supplies to haul into the county until at least midnight Sunday.
Viola Johnson, co-owner of Triple J Oil, said she had been informed that when her pumps are empty she would not be able to get any fuel until Sunday. As of early Friday afternoon, she was allowing the public to pump as many gallons as they wanted until the pumps shut down.
“We had a limit on the gas earlier, but we took it off and decided to just let the public buy it until we run completely out,” said Johnson.
While the majority of the gas station officials throughout the county said they, too, were placing no limit on the amount of gasoline sold to each customer, employees of Don’s SuperSaver Gas Station said they had placed a $25 limit per customer on their sales due to the fact that their station was almost out of gas even after receiving a huge shipment early Friday morning.
“It is very doubtful that we will get anymore tomorrow,” said employee Derek White. “I have worked here for nine months, and I have never seen it like this before.”
Another Don’s employee, John Fields, noted that the sudden fear of a gas shortage had kept the gas attendants in a rush all day with vehicles forming lines that stretched from the entrance of the Taco Bell parking lot all the way up to the exit at the Don’s SuperSaver store exit.
Gail O’Rourke, manager of Harlan Double Kwik, said that she too was expecting to run out of fuel by the end of the day on Friday and that she had no idea when the station would be receiving any shipments.
“Our last shipment was last night (Thursday) at 11 p.m. and although we are expecting to run out soon, we have put no limits on the amount of the purchases,” said O’Rourke.
Many customers waiting in the long lines around the county said they were not as shocked at the sudden shortage as they could have been if the hurricane had not been expected.
“This is just reality,” said Phillip Fox, who waited in line at Don’s. “The storm that just left — Gustav — I think is the one that actually put a cramp on everything. Now this one is coming and that just adds to the problem. But I really think that Gustav is the one that has caused this problem. Like I said this is just reality and when disasters like this happen we can expect the gas prices to go up.”
Chandra Blevins, mother of three, said that since she had two school age children it would be almost impossible for her to park her vehicle and stay at home, but she also noted that she expects to attempt to ration her gasoline at least until this immediate crisis is over.
“I can’t just not get out and go because I have to take the boys back and forth to school but I am going to probably not be making as many trips as usual for a few days,” said Blevins.
Such may be the case with many Harlan Countians if the shipments are not available to be brought into the area by Sunday night.
Although gas prices in surrounding parts of the nation had risen to over $5 per gallon late Friday afternoon, the average price around the county throughout Harlan remained at a steady $4.09 to $4.29 per gallon and according to several gas station attendants those prices would remain until the gas was completely gone and they were forced to shut down their pumps.
The early Saturday morning expected hurricane is responsible for shutting down hundreds of oil refineries around the Gulf Coast and into southern Texas thus being responsible for the sudden shortage of fuel throughout the country.
Early Friday Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway requested that Gov. Steve Beshear issued a state of emergency for the commonwealth in order to protect the consumers from price gouging during this current disastrous situation.
According to a press release from the Beshear’s office, under this order the governor can apply chapter 367 of the Kentucky Revised Statutes to implement provisions of the law aimed at protecting the citizens of Kentucky from predatory pricing by unscrupulous providers including but not limited to gasoline and building supplies.
“I am outraged at the voracious practices of price gouging that we are seeing,” said Beshear. “Today I have taken an extraordinary step to protect the consumers of the commonwealth from these predators.”
The consumer protection measures of the state of emergency include empowering the attorney general’s office to investigate and prosecute, were appropriate, those who sell gasoline, building supplies and other goods for predatory pricing in time of a disaster.
“Today I formally requested that Gov. Beshear implement the price gouging protections of Kentucky’s Consumer Protection Act as they apply to gasoline and other goods and services. We have received an overwhelming influx of reports from across Kentucky of gasoline price spikes and even rationing. I felt it was important to get the price gouging protections in place as soon as possible to protect he commonwealth’s consumers and businesses,” Conway said in a press release.
Spokespersons for Conway’s office would not comment on any reports of price gouging accusations being made in Harlan. However, according to the press release, Beshear and Conway have partnered earlier this summer to make consumer protection a priority by launching an investigation into high gas prices in Louisville.