Culture / Newsy

Absolute Panic Drives a Surreal North Texas Gas Shortage

Fights Break Out at Dallas Pumps as Hurricane Harvey Hysteria Spreads

BY // 09.01.17

DALLAS — It’s been beautiful in North Texas the last few days — nothing but blue skies and temperate temperatures. Hurricane Harvey didn’t even blow a kiss at this region, outside of some light showers last Saturday. But that hasn’t stopped Harvey hysteria from breaking out.

And it’s turned Dallas area gas stations into scenes that are seemingly lifted from a Mad Max movie.

There is a major gas shortage in North Texas, one that officials say is partially spurred by panicked drivers anticipating a shortage and trying to make sure their tanks are topped off, and it’s brought out the worst in some. There are reports of fights breaking out at the pumps as desperate drivers try to cut in line before another station is drained completely dry — and some stations started charging more than $5 a gallon to take advantage of the situation.

Driving around Dallas on Thursday night, I hit five different gas stations — and all of them were completely out. Many simply placed plastic bags over all their pumps. One put a nice “Sorry No Gas” signs on all their pumps. Meanwhile, several frustrated drives lingered around the empty pumps, almost as if they couldn’t process that there really was no gas.

Harvey brought this about in many ways. More than 20 percent of the United State’s oil refinery capability has been shut down in the wake of the historic storm. These includes two of America’s largest refineries being completely out of commission.

But panicked drivers have pushed it to a new level.

There are number of Houston families in Dallas — and the ones I’ve talked to largely consider themselves the lucky ones. They made the decision to leave before Harvey hit. None of them had to be rescued — or endure horrific conditions to escape. Even if their homes are underwater, they’re safe. You run into them in hotel lobbies, out at restaurants and at the Perot Museum of Natural Science, which quietly is letting anyone from Houston in for free.

Almost none of these Houston imports anticipated a gas shortage here — certainly not when the weather is perfect. But that is exactly what is happening.

One Dallas area Costco had line of cars waiting at the pumps that stretched longer than two football fields on Thursday.

Jay Hatfield, portfolio manager of InfraCap’s AMZA fund, tells the Dallas Morning News that the “chances of this being a long-term shortage is zero.”

“The only question is does it last one week, two weeks or three weeks, not a month, two months, three months,” Hatfield says.

The gas shortage is here for now. When you don’t have a full tank, even a week can seem like an eternity. Hence, the lines and even the fights. Panic city? Surely, Texans are stronger than this.

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