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Gas Stations In Florida Running Out Of Fuel As Hurricane Irma Continues


We've been talking about the effects of Hurricane Irma now and what we expect in the coming days. But now, we want to hear about how the storm was causing problems days before it arrived in the form of gas shortages. Gas stations from Jacksonville in the north of the state to Palm Beach in the south and a lot of places in between have seen a surge in so-called panic buying in the days leading up to Irma's landfall. NPR's Brakkton Booker saw this firsthand, and he's with us now from member station WFSU in Tallahassee to tell us more. Hi, Brakkton.


MARTIN: So you've been reporting in Florida and doing a lot of driving ahead of Irma making landfall. What did you see at the pumps?

BOOKER: Lots and lots of shrink wrap. I mean, they were all over the gas pumps. And if they - if the stations weren't using shrink wrap, they were using tape or baggies to cover the nozzles. Now, gas shortages have been a problem leading up to the days head of Irma, but it was really bad yesterday. I was driving around in Jacksonville. it took me about an hour of driving around before I could find gas. And on my drive today from Orlando to Tallahassee, there were more cars in lines at the pump than on the road, which I guess is a good thing given the circumstances of Irma.

MARTIN: So how are people able to find gas? How have they been able to find it?

BOOKER: You had to be a little bit - you had to have a little bit of luck really. If you saw a bunch of cars at a gas station, you take your chances and try to drive up and see if they still had gas. I used an app called Gas Buddy, which it showed me a few places that had gas. In one station outside of Gainesville, I was able to get about two and a half gallons of gas before it ran out. And a couple of towns over in a town called Live Oak, I filled up at a gas station called Busy Bee. So I got lucky there.

MARTIN: So how are people reacting to this? Is it fraying people's nerves?

BOOKER: It is. I think people are really dejected. I mean, if you're driving around at this late stage to get gas, you are used to this by now because you've driven by lots of gas stations seeing the shrink wrap that I was telling you about. Lots of gas stations are closed. So people are dejected but you kind of move on because, I mean, there's a storm coming so you don't have a lot of time to, like, get mad and angry. You just got to find the gas.

MARTIN: And before we let you go, Brakkton, about 50 seconds left, what are officials saying about how long these shortages might last after the storm is over?

BOOKER: You know, it's really tough to say. Now before the storm hit, Florida Governor Rick Scott said he was working around the clock to bring more gas to the state. And he also urged people to take only what they need. People are really filling up, though. But one gas station I saw was capping gas at 10 gallons. People could only get 10 gallons. But the biggest problem is going to be after the storm hits and people are trying to get home and there's not going to be any gas at the gas tanks because the fuel tanks haven't been able to restock.

MARTIN: That's NPR's Brakkton Booker joining us from member station WFSU in Tallahassee. Brakkton, thank you.

BOOKER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Brakkton Booker is a National Desk reporter based in Washington, DC.