Running on empty

Weekend plans, rides to work or home force drivers to suffer long lines

SAN ANTONIO – Ron Wilson sat in a line of cars around the block at the Stripes station Friday afternoon, waiting to fill up with the gas he needed to make a two-hour drive this weekend.

"I have two boys that live in the Victoria area, and they were hit by the storm so we were going to go down there," Wilson said.

Though the quarter-tank he still had might last Wilson through the weekend, it would not last him for the drive to Victoria.

A rush on gasoline has complicated an already weakened fuel supply system in the wake of Harvey and caused fuel pumps to temporarily run dry in San Antonio and elsewhere in Texas.

While officials have urged drivers against panic buying as the industry struggles to meet demand, many on Friday waited out the long lines with their gas gauges pointed at "empty." Without the gas to fill their tanks, they worried about how they would get to work, make it to their weekend plans or even get home.

"But when you see that, 'Ooh, will I make it to home?' You know? That's when you go like, 'OK, I guess I can wait 30 minutes,'" said Louanne Rintala as she exited the same gas station where Wilson waited in line.

Some, like April Amaya, who was nearly out of gas, needed the gasoline for their Labor Day weekend getaways.

"We were planning to go to Blanco River," she said. "So hopefully I can fill up and we can head out that way this weekend."

So, hooked by the promise of a full tank, lines stretched down the street at the stations with fuel for the second day in a row. The change from "E" to "F" on their gas gauges was a welcome relief to drivers.

"It just feels great to have my car full," Amaya said as she drove out with a full tank. "We're not worried that I'm going to get stranded somewhere."

A long wait wasn't always rewarded. As Wilson crept forward in the line, a store employee came out to tell each driver there was no more gas.

"Only other place I know is down on San Pedro," Wilson said as he weighed his alternatives. "They have gas down there, but it will probably run out before I get there. So I may not have a trip after all. I may save some money."

Mayor Ron Nirenberg released a statement Friday afternoon asking store owners to temporarily restrict individual gas purchases and drivers to fill up only when necessary.

“Refineries and suppliers expect gas deliveries to be back to normal next week,” the mayor said.

About the Author: