Central PA Struggles with Gasoline Supply

Three weeks after Hurricane Sandy, refineries still playing catch up

ALTOONA & YORK, Pa. -- Nearly three weeks after Hurricane Sandy made landfall in the Northeast, the list of gasoline retailers in Pennsylvania struggling to find fuel started to grow again this past week.

Sheetz stores in central Pennsylvania reported running out of 87- and 89-octane gasoline over the weekend. A company spokesperson said the shortage is a delayed reaction to the storm that made landfall late last month.

Up until now, the Altoona. Pa.-based chain has been using gasoline produced before the storm hit, spokeswoman Monica Jones told the Patriot-News. That supply was disrupted when refineries along the coast went offline. Though the refineries are back up, they are behind on the area's demand. About 50 stores in the eastern part of Pennsylvania are affected by the outages, Jones told CSP Daily News. Diesel fuel was unaffected.

"The greater Harrisburg and York areas have several stores out," Jones told the Carlisle Sentinel. Two stores in Carlisle were completely out of gas. "It's spreading," she said. "[Supply has] been tight since the storm, but it's really bottoming out now."

Refineries that had been shut down are now coming back online, putting more gasoline back into the supply chain. Sheetz constantly has trucks on the road, Jones said, and every store gets one delivery a day.

"They're pulling double duty now," she said, noting that some stores that have run out of gas have been able to receive a fresh supply within hours.

There's no timeline for when the supply chain issues will be completely resolved, but Jones is optimistic. "We're hoping that it's really brief," she said.

Meanwhile, Scott Hartman, CEO of Rutter's Farm Stores, York, Pa., said employees have worked diligently the past two weeks to locate gas.

"It has been hard, but we think we are OK," he told the newspaper. "We've been scrambling for the last two weeks. As of Friday, we were touch and go there for a while, but we managed to find enough for the weekend. ... We've had trucks going to all sorts of places we don't normally go to get gas."

Hartman said if other retailers run dry and their customers flood Rutter's stores, then they could see a supply issue they did not expect.

Hartman traced the problem back to the shutdown of a major gas pipeline that runs from Baltimore to New York and stops in Philadelphia, in anticipation of then-oncoming Hurricane Sandy.

"It's about five days behind," since it was re-activated, he said.