(Reuters) – U.S. motorists are feeling the effects of Hurricane Florence as gas prices at the pump rose this week and stations in the Southeastern evacuation zones faced a run on fuel supplies.
More than 1.5 million people were ordered on Tuesday to evacuate their homes along the U.S. southeast coast to escape Hurricane Florence, a major Category 4 storm expected to make landfall in the Carolinas later this week.
Gas prices in South Carolina have climbed by about 8 cents to $2.585 a gallon from a week earlier, according to motorists’ advocacy group AAA. Early Tuesday, nearly 6 percent of Wilmington, North Carolina stations reported running out of supplies, said retail tracking service GasBuddy.
“I’m looking across the street at a gas station, and it’s a madhouse. People are honking at each other, cars are almost lined up out to the street,” Lauren Hancock, a resident of Wrightsville Beach in the state’s evacuation zone, said on Tuesday.
“There are several gas stations out of gas.”
Officials in Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina this week warned against price gouging by retailers, citing penalties for violating state of emergency rules against excessive price increases.
The southeast United States is largely supplied with fuel via Colonial Pipeline, which carries more than 3 million barrels per day of gasoline, diesel and other fuels to markets in the southern and eastern United States. Its operator was preparing for potential flooding and loss of power.
The pipeline was operating normally on Tuesday and has reached out to customers to coordinate any changes in service that might arise from future terminal closures, spokesman Steve Baker said in an email.
The Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority has ordered additional supplies of gasoline to fuel airport fleet vehicles, spokesman Andrew Sawyer said by phone.
Brokers and wholesalers in the Carolinas said they were starting to see stockpiles dwindle.
“As a resident of the South East and pretty much in the way of Florence, we are already running out of gasoline,” said Scott Shelton, an energy broker at ICAP in Durham, North Carolina.
“There have been some spotty outages of certain products in some areas,” said Michael Fields, executive director of the South Carolina Petroleum Marketers Association, whose members include convenience store operators. “With a million people leaving the coasts and coming inland, there’s going to be some issues.”
Reporting by Liz Hampton in Houston, Devika Krishna Kumar, Stephanie Kelly and Ayenat Mersie in New York; Editing by Richard Chang