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Stations face gas shortages

October 29, 2003|By HEATHER BREMNER, Staff Writer

Motorists returning to San Diego on Tuesday and firefighters making the trek to help with the San Diego-area fires were met with long lines at gas stations throughout El Centro.

Twenty-five fire trucks from the Chandler, Ariz., Fire Department stopped at the Chevron gas station on the corner of Ocotillo Drive and Imperial Avenue on Tuesday to gas up. Lucky for them, Interstate 8 had opened Monday night, bringing a truckload of gas to fill the previously empty tanks at the station.

Both the Ocotillo Drive and Fourth Street Chevrons in El Centro ran out of gas around 10:30 a.m. Monday and weren't able to fill their tanks until 7 p.m., when a truckload of regular unleaded gasoline arrived that the two stations shared.

By Tuesday afternoon El Centro's gas pumps were filled with gasoline but that didn't prevent lines from forming at all the stations near the interstate.

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"We've been really busy," said Sam Jackson, a cashier at the Ocotillo Drive Chevron. "It's been nonstop since 6:30 a.m. when everyone got up to go back to San Diego."

The Imperial Valley receives most of its gas shipments from Colton and San Diego through the El Centro-based McNeece Brothers Oil Co., which supplies gas to independent and name-brand stations, particularly Shell and Chevron.

The trucks from Colton couldn't get through because of lack of power and the supply from San Diego couldn't get through because of the fire.

Independent stations such as Citgo weren't hit as hard but began to run low when drivers headed there to gas up when they saw that the Shells and Chevrons were out of gas.

The 7-Eleven/Citgo on Ocotillo was stacked with motorists waiting to gas up Monday and Tuesday.

"Yesterday was when we were really concerned because we had a lot of evacuees gassing up and we certainly didn't want to have a panic run," said El Centro Mayor Jack Terrazas on Tuesday. "We were hoping that things would balance out today."

With the interstate open again supplies should come back to the Valley smoothly the rest of the week, he said.

Harlan Calhoun, controller for McNeece Brothers Oil Co., said gas supplies should be fine from now on but it all depends on demand.

"It's all based on supply and demand. Nobody was expecting this much demand," he said. "They were drained out because of the big demand. It's in excess of normal demand."

Jonas Blakenship and Jenny Lake — who both fled San Diego on Sunday night, staying two nights in the Valley and filling their gas tanks Tuesday afternoon — said they were happy the gas was stocked because they wanted to get back home.

Although some Valley hotels pumped up their prices to take advantage of those fleeing the fire, local gas prices stayed fixed.

>> Staff Writer Heather Bremner can be reached at hbremner@ivpressonline.com or 337-3445.

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