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February 9, 2013

Gas shortage, price spikes hit motorists

SEABROOK — A frenzy of customers at gas stations saw pumps running dry, while other stations dramatically increased gas prices, a move that outraged customers.

Lines at gas stations throughout the region swelled starting on Thursday night, and continued to see frenzied activity as the storm’s leading edge hit yesterday. By 6 p.m. on Thursday some gas stations in Seabrook were already out of gas, leaving drivers in long lines at other stationed that still had supply.

A popular place to fill tanks because of lower prices, Seabrook’s pumps had already risen to $3.63 per gallon at most of the stations Thursday night, from a low that morning of $3.59 at most stations.

But by Friday at noon, gas market prices in the region charged by wholesalers had risen again, and as gas supplies grew tighter and tighter, and harder and harder to get, some station owners wanting gas were forced to pay premium prices just to get gas in their underground holding tanks.

“We ran out of gas last night,” said Richdale owner and Seabrook Selectman Aboul Khan yesterday morning. “I was able to get a delivery from our supplier of about 2,800 gallons, and we’re pumping that now. But when we’re out, we’re out. We won’t have any more until after the storm.”

Getting gas supplies is more than difficult during bad travel weather for service station owners, Khan said. Gas distributors are reluctant to send out tankers when the driving is dangerous, he said, especially after the huge tanker accident that closed Interstate 95 a few years ago.

Charles Mabardy, who owns stations in Amesbury, Salisbury and Seabrook, said he sold more gas than ever before on Thursday, as much as three times the normal amount. With the expectation of another high-demand morning Friday before the storm hit, Mabardy had a difficult time obtaining supply. He was able to bring more in on Thursday evening, but he had to pay a premium price for it. The higher wholesale price drove the price up another 10-cents a gallon on Friday, he said, something that angered some who were waiting in line at the pump when the price went up.

The worry for service stations isn’t just fuel, but power outages, which could shut off the pumps. The hope is that motorists will remain calm and not act out their frustrations if things get dicey during and after the storm.

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