- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 24, 2009

HAGERSTOWN, Md. | Scattered gasoline shortages caused by a record-breaking winter storm eased Wednesday as fuel trucks sidelined by up to 2 1/2 feet of snow resupplied gas stations from Virginia to Connecticut, industry workers said.

Some filling stations, including at least two in Frederick, were out of gas as recently as Tuesday, reflecting a combination of delayed deliveries, low dealer inventories, panic buying before the storm and heavy demand afterward, said Michael Fox, executive director of the Gasoline & Automotive Service Dealers of America, a trade group based in Manchester, Conn.

Mr. Fox said no more than 15 percent of East Coast dealers went dry. Those that did were often clustered as consumers panicked by “No gas” signs at one station made runs on others nearby, he said.

Dealer inventories were low before the storm because station owners had limited their purchases in reponse to falling wholesale prices, Mr. Fox said. “Dealers don’t want to be stuck with higher-priced product in the tank and be uncompetitive to consumers,” he said.

John Tischio, owner of J&A; Gas and Go in Manchester, Conn., said consumer demand accelerated as the storm approached.

“My numbers almost doubled for the weekend,” he said. “Friday and Saturday were a zoo.”

The heavy snow kept fuel trucks off the highways, unable to reach either pipeline terminals or customers.

“Most distributors in our membership made the decision on Friday to pull trucks off the road,” said Michael J. O’Connor, president of the Virginia Petroleum, Convenience and Grocery Association in Richmond.

That produced spot outages among the trade group’s 4,700 Virginia stations and others in neighboring Maryland and West Virginia.

Janet Vineyard, president of the West Virginia Oil Marketers and Grocers Association in Charleston, W.Va., said much of the fuel sold in her state comes from a terminal near Roanoke, Va., “so we had issues from the Roanoke area all the way to Charleston in the southern part of the state.”

Mr. O’Connor praised the Virginia government for using its emergency authority Monday to relax restrictions on fuel truck weight and driver hours, enabling faster deliveries of gasoline and heating oil.

By Wednesday, the Golden Mile Exxon in Frederick was back in business after running dry twice since Sunday.

“We received a load yesterday afternoon. Everything has been fine,” cashier Bertha Casteneda said.

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