Just days after Hurricane Katrina blasted through the Gulf Coast, a gas storm surged into McDuffie County.
Gas stations in Thomson had lines waiting at the pumps last Wednesday to purchase gasoline. At the Racetrac on Washington Road beside I-20 the price of gasoline had jumped up 20 cents since the day before, according to Iabal Singa, manager. Mr. Singa said his station had received 3,000 gallons of unleaded at 6 a.m. Wednesday morning, and was totally out of unleaded by 1 p.m. The station usually sells 10,000 gallons daily.
Bill Wagner with Twin W Landscaping of Thomson fills a truckload of gas cans for his business.
"I called the home office in Alabama this morning, and they don't know when more is coming, they just don't know," Mr. Singa said.
Lloyd Axon, owner of Axon's Minimart in Dearing, said his station had nonstop lines from 2:30 until 9:30 p.m. Wednesday. His station didn't run out of gas until Thursday.
"The situation hurt business, we sold a lot that one day, but if you divide that amongst every day, then it hurts," Mr. Axon said.
"I can tell you one thing, it is breaking everybody, and I think President Bush can do something about it if he would," said David Smith of Thomson, as he filled his Voyager minivan Wednesday at the Racetrac. "We have plenty of oil in the United States."
Mr. Smith and many other customers at the station Wednesday, said they were there because they received phone calls from family members or friends, telling them gas was running out.
Henry Jones, owner of Sprint gas stations in Thomson, Wrens, Louisville and Augusta, said these phone calls are a problem.
Claire Labbruzzo fills a gas can after filling up a car. She said the gas prices are especially straining since she has to drive to Augusta to go to work.
"What's happening is people are panicking and they really shouldn't. If gas gets a little tight, if everybody will be patient, we're going to have plenty of gas. There's plenty, you've just got to be patient and not keep everything you've got full," Mr. Jones said Wednesday.
Mr. Jones said only one of his 10 stations had run out of gas on Wednesday, and he had it re-supplied within 20 minutes.
Bill Wagner, owner of Twin W Landscaping, said the gas situation affects him in two areas. Not only does Mr. Wagner drive to his customers, but all the equipment he uses for his service requires gasoline.
"So it's a double-edged sword for me. In my business, I'm totally dependent on the fuel," Mr. Wagner said. "‚Ä¶My cost is up about $4, and I'm passing that fee on to (my customers.)"
The effect on his business isn't the only thing Mr. Wagner is worried about. Mr. Wagner feels the oil companies are not concerned.
"When you see Exxon making $9 billion profit the last quarter, it's like how many homes can you live in and how many yachts can you drive," he said. "It's like a big glut of more money, more money, more money. It seems like there's no concern for our country. ‚Ä¶ It now takes a fair portion of your income to fill your tank. You can't sugar coat it. You can't feel good about it."
In an attempt to ease the burden, Governor Sonny Perdue signed an executive order calling for a temporary moratorium on state collection of all motor fuel taxes, effective at midnight last Friday night until the end of September.
"My purpose in temporarily suspending fuel tax collection is to relieve some of the financial burden placed on Georgians by disruptions of our fuel supply resulting from the effects of Hurricane Katrina," Governor Perdue said in an internet press release Friday.¬† "In making this decision, I fully considered the fiscal implications.¬† This moratorium will have no negative effect on the state budget."
Mr. Jones said Tuesday the tax suspension caused prices to drop 15 cents per gallon at his stations. But Labor Day week-end business was slow because "everyone had already filled up on Wednesday and Thursday."
However, Mr. Jones said "the situation is on the upswing now," because "the colonial pipeline is up to 86 percent capacity, it was zero last week. It's going to take several weeks to straighten itself out. You are going to see spot outages. We don't know from day to day what's going to happen. But the price is coming down some."