Goodnight, Irene

Hurricane disrupts lives, retail, petroleum supply as it moves up Eastern Seaboard, beyond

NEW YORK -- Convenience stores, gas stations and retailers of all types boarded up, shut down or held on tight as Hurricane Irene raged up the East Coast over the weekend. Irene charged through New England and into Canada on Sunday as it weakened to a tropical storm after racing across a shuttered New York City and causing at least 20 deaths, widespread severe flooding and left four million homes and businesses without power, reported NBC.

Forecasters said Irene, while diminished in strength, was still powerful, with winds of 60 mph after its long journey up the coast. The National Hurricane Center downgraded the storm after its winds fell below 74 mph. As the eye of the sprawling storm blew through New York City and Long Island to the east, it pushed an eight-foot Atlantic storm surge toward New York and sent floodwater flowing into lower Manhattan.

A few of the many chains with closed or affected stores included Wawa, Cumberland Farms, VPS/Scotchmans, BP, Murphy USA, Pilot Flying J and High's Dairy Stores, according to a brief survey of numerous media reports. Many stations ran out of gasoline or lost power.

Industry associations and retailers--such as the New York Association of Convenience Stores (NYACS) and Wilmington, N.C.-based VPS Convenience Store Group, which operates the Scotchman, Village Pantry, Li'l Cricket, Youngs, Next Door Store and other chains--posted hurricane preparedness notices including list of food and supplies.

Wawa Inc. said in a statement Sunday that "efforts are underway throughout the region to recover from the impact of Hurricane Irene. Wawa internal and external teams are working to restore operations in hundreds of Wawa stores throughout the five-state area [Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia]. Wawa's facilities, store operations and supply chain teams will make every attempt to reopen and stock our stores to help people recover from the storm's impact as soon as possible.

Widespread power outages continue to impact approximately 100 Wawa stores. As power is restored in those areas, teams will begin the process of reopening.

In addition, wherever possible, as long as the safety of our customers and associates is not compromised, we will attempt to get stores back up and running and will continue to do so throughout the day."

The Wawa, Pa.-based company said that it will offer updates "throughout the day with progress to reopen our stores in affected areas while following the guidelines of local emergency officials and dealing with power outages."

The hurricane destroyed the canopy of Akins Creek Market, a BP station and c-store in Avon, N.C. (click here to view the ABC News report).

On Sunday, Knoxville, Tenn.-based Pilot Flying J posted on Facebook a list of its Pilot or Flying J locations in the storm's path that were shut down because of lack of power or evacuation orders: Tallysville, Va., North East, Md., Carney's Point, N.J., Milford, Conn., Richmond, Va. and North Stonington, Conn.

On Friday, the Petroleum Marketers Association of America (PMAA) said that along with state petroleum marketing associations located in regions expected to be in the path of Hurricane Irene, it sent a letter to the White House and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requesting fuel waivers and other regulatory relief to ensure the uninterrupted supply of gasoline, diesel fuel, kerosene and heating oil before, during and after Hurricane Irene moves through the Eastern Seaboard.

Specifically, PMAA and the affected state associations asked for an immediate waiver of the EPA's 15ppm diesel fuel requirement for emergency generators and backup equipment used by first responders and other vital service providers such as hospitals, utilities and local municipalities.

The group said that it believes the waiver is necessary in order to overcome the logistical hurdles involved with attempting to meet the overwhelming demand for 15ppm with supply from the terminal rack rather than with heating oil supply at bulk plant facilities. A partial ultra-low-sulfur diesel (ULSD) waiver would allow heating oil to substitute for 15-ppm and ensure that all emergency generators and backup equipment is fully supplied before the hurricane arrived.

In addition, PMAA and the state associations asked the EPA to be prepared to waive federal RFG, RVP and ULSD requirements should supply be interrupted due to refinery, terminal and pipeline closures.

In a separate letter to the White House, PMAA and the state associations reiterated the need for fuel waivers and asked the administration to intercede quickly to waive other federal requirements including IRS dye regulations and driver hours of service regulations should circumstances warrant. The letter also asked the administration to ensure that any local, state, regional or federal transportation ban that may be imposed in disaster areas exempt fuel delivery trucks.

As of Friday, none of the waiver requests have been granted; PMAA worked on this issue throughout the weekend with the various federal authorities and state petroleum marketing associations to achieve the regulatory flexibility needed to ensure the uninterrupted supply of fuel before, during and after Hurricane Irene passes over the region, it said.

Please share any Hurricane Irene stories with CSP Daily News. Please send them to Steve Holtz at sholtz@cspnet.com.

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