Yesterday I complained about the gas shortage that's hitting parts of the southeast, including the western Carolinas, really hard. The Colonial Pipeline which provides the area with fuel has been operating at severely reduced capacity, because the refineries which feed it were shut down by the double-whammy of Gustav and Ike, and have been taking a looooooong time to get restarted. The result has been gas stations with no gas and lines which, according to a German colleague of mine, are reminiscent of Soviet East Germany.
Today a major emergency shipment came into the region from refineries in the Atlantic, but since most people were running almost on empty this has still resulted in long lines. I finally ventured out today and got myself into a reasonably short gas line -- only 20 cars ahead of me -- and managed to fill up. I took a couple of cellphone pictures to give a feel for the fun...
Here I am on the home stretch to the pumps! It's obvious from the picture that it was a lovely day to be sitting around in a parked car. A nice thing about driving my hybrid Civic is that I'm comfortable shutting the engine off every time I stop: the hybrid engine starts really easily.
People for the most part were well-behaved, though one man was having a near hissy-fit because he had to pre-pay for his gas and wasn't sure how much he needed. A police officer was on hand to direct traffic.
After fueling up, I turned around and snapped one more quick shot before leaving. The full line, which stretches to the left behind trees for another 15 cars, can't be seen. All in all, I probably spent a half hour in line. Fortunately, I had an old genetics textbook in my car so I was able to pass the time reading up on science. I'm also fortunate that I have a job which allows me to stay home most days, if necessary; I was able to wait for a larger supply of gas to arrive in town.
The crisis isn't necessarily over. News reports suggest that this 'major shipment' will simply be a patch to help people get by, but the Colonial Pipeline won't be at full capacity for days to come. I'm still baffled why better contingency plans weren't put in place: a lesser version of this crisis happened two years ago after Katrina, so it isn't exactly an unforeseen event. I would say that this is an electoral problem for Governor Mike Easley (D), but his opponent this year is current Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory (R), who hasn't seemed to have any better grasp of the fuel problem.