TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Panic buying continues to put a strain on the gas supply in some parts of the Sunshine State.
While Florida's shortages are largely self-inflicted, experts hope the restarting of the Colonial Pipeline would ease fears and demand in the coming days.
Florida gets about 95 percent of its gas from seaports, meaning the recent cyberattack on the line, and subsequent shutdown, shouldn't have had a major impact. But panic buying and hoarding by Floridians continue to push demand beyond typical supply levels.
"Not that long ago something similar happened with toilet paper," said Nathanael Read, a Tallahassee resident struggling to fill up. "It's like, 'Wow, it hasn’t been that long and here we go again with gas.'"
North Florida was seeing some of the worst of the gas guzzle. Experts estimate that about 30 percent of Florida stations were without gasoline as of Thursday afternoon.
Matt Nasworthy, Public Affairs Director with AAA Florida, was hopeful things would return to normal by the end of the weekend. He said Florida's emergency order waiving weight restrictions and the federal government's loosening limits on driver hours would likely help speed up the process.
"We're hoping in the next couple of days that'll settle out," Nasworthy said. "We’ll get those trucks from the ports to those gas stations and have them filled back up to normal capacity."
But all of that is contingent on Floridians holding off on the hoarding. Florida's Lt. Governor Jeanette Nuñez stressed Floridians statewide need to stop panic-buying to keep problems in the panhandle from spreading.
"We want to ensure make sure that everyone understands that there is no need to panic," said the Republican leader. "The north end of the state is what was impacted. The rest of the state is just fine. So, let's not continue to contribute to the problem."
The gas struggle prompted State Sen. Gary Farmer to renew his pitch for a strategic fuel reserve change to prevent issues like this in the future. He hoped colleagues would take up the idea during next week’s special session.
Florida's @FarmerForFLSen renewing calls for a state fuel reserve to better prevent future gas supply issues. Farmer is hoping lawmakers will take up the idea in the special gaming session set to start next week. pic.twitter.com/NbQDkCtFrk— Forrest Saunders (@FBSaunders) May 13, 2021
"The gas shortages Floridians confronted needn’t have happened and wouldn’t have happened had we taken up and passed the strategic fuel reserve legislation," the Democrat said in a statement. "As the hurricane season begins next month, we are duty bound to address the security of our fuel supply next week. I’m ready to bring SB 1454 back to the Senate for consideration at any time. It’s my hope that the governor and fellow lawmakers will join me in recognizing the urgency of this issue."