Triangle keeps most pumps going

Area motorists were not immune Monday to the state's gas shortage, but the spot outages documented at stations across the Triangle did not compare to the reports of long lines crowding stations in Charlotte and other points in Western North Carolina.

Gas suppliers and AAA expect the situation to continue to improve during the week as more refineries in the Gulf of Mexico come back on line at full capacity.

Answers to some common questions:

Q: With supplies squeezed, what is happening to Triangle gas prices?

A: Triangle motorists on Monday were paying an average of $3.896 a gallon for regular, and several Raleigh stations were posting prices below $3.80. This week, motorists in Asheville and Charlotte were paying well above $4.

Q: Why were Charlotte-area stations so quick to run out of gas over the weekend?

A: AAA Carolinas spokeswoman Carol Gifford said gas stations in Charlotte and the western part of the state were not receiving full loads during gasoline deliveries.

"So when they did have gasoline available, it was for however long it takes for drivers to purchase it before it runs out," she said Monday.

Gifford said it likely would take seven to 10 days for gasoline from the Gulf-area refineries coming back on line to flow through the pipeline to the Carolinas.

Q: Why has the Triangle market fared better recently?

A: According to Gary Harris, executive director of the N.C. Petroleum and Convenience Marketers Association, being between fuel terminals in Selma and Greensboro has helped keep most area stations supplied.

On Monday morning, stations such as the Han-Dee Hugo's at 3220 Duraleigh Road in Raleigh offered only regular gasoline.

Harris said, however, that his association had not fielded any reports of widespread gas outages in the Triangle.

Q: Where are Triangle motorists most likely to find spot outages?

A: Harris suggested that outages are more likely to occur at stations offering "unbranded" fuel. Stations offering Exxon, Shell and other major brands take precedence, with the major oil companies contractually obligated to supply first those branded contract outlets, Harris said.

That leaves the unaffiliated stations to buy what is available on the open market.

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