Some Chattanooga area fuel stations were dry on Monday as gasoline supplies tightened in the wake of the Alabama pipeline problem, and there may be little change the rest of the week.
At stations with fuel, business was brisk though waiting in line wasn't typical in Chattanooga. Still, pump prices locally have jumped nearly 20 cents a gallon in a week to an average of $2.15 for regular unleaded, according to AAA's fuel gauge report.
A number of Chattanooga area stations were charging $2.29 per gallon and a few even higher, GasBuddy.com reported.
Nearly 600 complaints about high gas prices were registered with the state in the past few days, though most of those were around Nashville, according to the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance.
"By and large, most of the complaints center around gas priced at under $3 per gallon, but we received complaints of retailers selling gas as high as $9.99 a gallon," said department spokesman Kevin Walters.
In the Chattanooga area, convenience stores without gas were found from Hixson Pike to Signal Mountain Road and Amnicola Highway to North Georgia. In some instances, employees said they didn't know when they'd receive more fuel.
Pat Conway, president of Chattanooga distributor JAT Oil, said all gasoline grades have tightened and that's expected for diesel fuel this week. Conway said it's going to take time to resolve problems regarding supply as issues likely linger for the rest of the week.
"There's a good deal of product deleted from the market," he said. "It doesn't just all come back."
Angela Holland, president of the Georgia Association of Convenience Stores, said that while there are gasoline "outages" at some places in that state, they'll be temporary and fuel is continuing to come back.
"Demand peaks when people get antsy," she said, adding that the distribution system isn't set up "for everyone to buy at one time "
Emily LeRoy, executive director of the Tennessee Fuel and Convenience Store Association, said East Tennessee was pressured when Middle Tennessee wholesalers started going to a Knoxville terminal to get fuel after a run in gas in the Nashville area.
"They were seeing greatly increased traffic at the terminal," she said.
Colonial Pipeline over the weekend started a temporary project to bypass a damaged stretch of pipeline that has leaked more than 250,000 gallons of fuel near Helena, Ala., since the spill was detected Sept. 9.
A Colonial line runs through Chattanooga and stretches north of Nashville and Knoxville. Colonial Pipeline was the company that lost at least 75,000 gallons of spilled diesel fuel in a deep sinkhole near Lookout Mountain in 1996.
Some Chattanooga area residents on Monday were cautious about what was in store the rest of the week.
Jesse Cline, of Fort Payne, Ala., said he's a painter and needs gas to get to work. He said locations on Interstate 59 between Fort Payne and Tennessee were without fuel last weekend.
"I'm not surprised about the price. I knew the price was going to go up," Cline said, though he didn't think the cost would spike so quickly.
Derrick Cal, of Chattanooga, said shortages and higher prices are worrisome, especially for those who need gas for work. But, he said, the supply issues make him realize how much people tend to waste fuel.
Rodney Commee, of Chattanooga, said he's not especially worried because he has a fuel-sipping, flex-fuel vehicle. He said one tank typically lasts him three weeks.
In Tennessee, Gov. Bill Haslam has issued an executive order waiving federal hours of service requirements for petroleum transporters to prevent fuel supply disruptions. It allows drivers to work longer hours to ensure fuel is available to retailers and wholesalers.
In Georgia, Gov. Nathan Deal on Monday signed an order preventing gas stations from significantly hiking fuel prices. He said reports of "substantially" increased gas prices in some markets led him to reiterate an existing state law that already bans price gouging.
Walters said Tennessee's gouging laws make it unlawful to charge "unreasonable prices" for items such as gasoline in direct response to a disaster.
"The price gouging law makes it unlawful to charge a price that is grossly in excess of the price charged prior to the emergency," he said in a statement.
Contact staff writer Mike Pare at email@example.com or 423-757-6318.