Gas-buying frenzy sweeps Cape

Wednesday, September 12, 2001

With rumors swirling that gas stations were going to run out of gasoline or close their doors by the end of the day Tuesday, Victoria Brazer's supervisor told her that it might be a good idea if she went and filled her car with gas while she had a chance.

So at about 1:30 p.m., Brazer pulled into the Kidd's station on Broadway to do just that.

As Brazer was filling her tank and saying she planned on limiting her driving because she expected gas prices to rise, Dana Morrow, assistant manager of the Kidd's store, was inside gathering the higher numbers to replace the existing ones on the sign out front.

In the time that it took Brazer to finish filling her car and go inside to pay, the price had changed from $1.36 a gallon for regular unleaded to $1.45. As Brazer was pulling away, she said she felt lucky because she had been one of the last people to get the cheaper price.

As the day went on more and more people caught wind of similar rumors and rushed to service stations to fill their tanks and soon lines were formed outside nearly every station in town.

At 2 p.m. Dan Gerler sat in line behind two other cars at Alberton's patiently waiting to fill his car.

"I work in the E.R. at St. Francis and we got word that all of the major pipelines across the country were going to be closed down," Gerler said. "They advised us to go fill up so we could make it to work the next few days."

By 4:30 p.m. cars, trucks, school buses and emergency vehicles lined the streets surrounding nearly every gas station in town, which prompted Cape Girardeau Police Chief Steve Strong to send out a statement urging motorists to avoid rushing to the gas pumps to purchase fuel.

"We have talked with local gas pipeline officials who said the pipelines have been temporarily shutdown for precautionary purposes following the tragedies earlier today," Strong said. "This has prompted long lines at several fuel stations which has resulted in traffic problems and a potential for accidents."

Calm urged

Strong asked motorists to remain calm and use good judgment so as not to worsen the situation.

Local oil officials agreed with Strong.

"It seems like everybody is panicking," said Charlie Brown, spokesman for Kidd Oil Co. There are two main oil pipelines that run through the region, and each has a terminal on it for distributing gas to trucks, which, in turn, deliver the gas to the stations around town.

Dispelling the rumors, Brown said the pipelines were not closed, but that at least one terminal was. The Teppco terminal in Scott City, Mo., closed before noon Tuesday.

Kathy Sauve, public relations manager at Teppco headquarters in Houston, Texas, said the terminal in Scott City was closed as a precautionary measure.

She said senior management evaluated the risks along the pipeline that runs from Texas, through the Midwest and on to the East Coast, and decided that closing the terminals along that line would be the safest thing to do.

Sauve said the risks will be re-evaluated today and all of the terminals are expected to be reopened by 8 a.m. today.

What that means for people in this area, said Jim Maurer, owner of Rhodes 101 shops, is there is no reason for people to be alarmed.

Maurer said the reason for the increase in price was due to the fact that most gasoline distributors base their long-term and short-term prices on information that they get from offices within the World Trade Center.

He said he noticed the price spike at about the time that the second airplane was hitting the second tower.

Locally, most stations increased prices an average of 10 cents a gallon, bringing the total cost to between $1.45 and $1.59 a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline.

hkronmueller@semissourian.com 335-6611 ext. 128

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