Austin Gas Crises

Overall, Austin was spared by Hurricane Harvey. We were extremely fortunate that we did not see the amount of destruction that other parts of the State of Texas did. With that being said, one of the biggest issues that is happening is a gas crises where there are widespread shortages. As a travel blogger who drives everywhere, it is kind of surreal knowing I can’t just pick up and go because most gas stations are out of gas or there are multiple hour waits at the gas stations that still have gas.

While our politicians are (rightfully) trying to keep people calm and say there isn’t a shortage, I really think there is an underlying shortage. Yes, people have been panicking and filling up, but when they claim there is no gas shortage, yet 10 refineries were shut down and another 5 were operating at limited capacity, on top of a major pipeline shipping gas from those refineries to Central Texas was shut down, there’s obviously going to be supply issue.

For me, I figured this kind of stuff was going to happen, so I made sure to fill up before the storm. Also, my new Focus, had a full tank from when I last parked it in the garage, so I knew I’d be set to ride it out for a while. I wasn’t too worried overall.

I first discovered shortages of gas when I was at a gas station ironically not even getting gas. I was getting breakfast at 7-11 and noticed the parking lot was much emptier than it had been the previous mornings and nobody was by the gas pumps.

When I got to the door, I noticed a sign saying they were out of gas.

When I was getting my food rung up, I talked to the clerk and she said that this was one of a few gas stations that had run out, but it didn’t sound too widespread. She said this was a busier station so just the normal flow of people ran the gas station out. I got my breakfast and then went to work.

At work I made a quick Google News search and saw that there was 1 article talking about 2 gas stations being out of gas. Obviously, nobody was panicking and gas stations were running out of gas. I knew there was definitely some underlying supply issues. I had to return the company car and part of that process was returning it with a full tank of gas. At around 11am, most gas stations still had gas, and besides a decent price hike, I was able to get gas without any lines at all.

Once the company car was filled, for good measure topped off my Focus on my lunch break. I still had over half a tank but they were saying it could be at least 2 weeks before supplies returned to normal. I figured better be safe than sorry. It really didn’t seem like there were any issues with supply until after work. At that time, I could see the lines getting crazy.

Eventually, gas stations started running out of gas and would put bags over their pumps. As time went on, this became a more common scene.

The prices also started to spike. Earlier in the week gas was $1.99-2.09.

Any gas station with gas had super long lines. I even saw gas stations without gas with long lines of people who hadn’t realized yet they were waiting in line for a place that had no gas.

Now, even though I had plenty of gas, I was going to play it safe. I had a Meetup downtown and figured I’d just take the bus. Besides saving gas, I was going to save a decent amount on parking.

I got to watch all the people sitting in gas lines and scrambling for gas as I rode the bus and relaxed a bit.

In the meantime, Victoria went shopping at Sam’s Club. They had a unique way of blocking off their out of gas gas station with shopping carts.

The next morning, we found a gas station with gas and Victoria decided to top off. Fortunately, there weren’t really any lines and the price itself was reasonable compared to the rest of the places.

Gas Buddy has an availability tracker and it looks like the majority of gas stations are still out of gas, but it’s easing as time goes on.

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My best guess is it’ll take several weeks for the refineries to fully get up and running and also the pipelines to be fully operational. From may understanding, most local terminals are running out of gas, so they’re bringing it in from other states. Just judging by how bad Hurricane Harvey hit the Houston area, where many of the refineries are, I have a feeling this is going to be at least a month or so before things fully return to normal and people get out of panic mode. Basically, a couple weeks to get full supplies and another week or two to get to the point where gas stations themselves don’t have lines and are seeing their normal flow of customers.

Now, I think there’s mixed messages going on in regards to this crises. They are trying to claim there are ample supplies, but common sense would say if that many refineries are down and also pipelines are not shipping gas, there’s going to be shortages. From a basic supply chain perspective, there’s a ton of disruptions and they are scrambling to get things back up and running. Even with everything up and running, there’s also a lot of compromised infrastructure such as flooded roads that need to be dealt with. There’s essentially no way they can supply the markets at full  and normal capacity until these disruptions get sorted out.

The one thing I hate to see is them trying to label people who are rushing to buy gas as irrational and stupid. In many ways, if the supply has been cut off like I think it has, it’s going to be a while before things are somewhat close to normal. While I looked ahead and bought before the storm, many other people didn’t and now are going, “Oh crap! I only have enough gas to get to work a few days.”

If people are seeking out a full tank of gas to make it as long as they can while these shortages are happening, I personally can’t fault them for that. They’re trying to function as normal as possible and be able to keep going to work. Now, there are reports of people filling garbage cans and other unapproved containers with gas. That’s a real problem and I hope they enforce those laws because not only is it causing issues with a shortage, there’s a real safety hazard if that garbage can tipped over with 50+ gallons of gas in it.

Right now I’m just laying low and making it a priority to save gas. I really don’t have any road trips planned and will just go back and forth to work and run my normal errands. If I want to go downtown, I’ll take the bus. I have a feeling supplies should start becoming more normal in a couple weeks and it’ll take a week or two before people get into normal mode again and effectively stop “panicking.” I can definitely wait it out.

Until normal supplies are ample, I can do my part in not using any more gas than I need and just be grateful that this is the worst affects of Hurricane Harvey that Austin is experiencing. Having to lay low for a few weeks is insanely easy compared to what many others across the state are currently experiencing.

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