Louisianans scramble to find fuel for generators after Ida

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People who say they have been waiting hours for a gasoline truck to show up are seen at a gas station in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida in New Orleans, Louisiana, United States on August 31, 2021. REUTERS / Leah Millis

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 4 (Reuters) – Louisiana residents and businesses in the area, who have endured nearly a week without power, are struggling to find generators or fuel to power them, making them difficult for residents to cool their homes after Hurricane Ida.

The strong Ida winds cut power to more than a million homes and businesses. Unlike other recent fuel shortages, such as the ransomware attack that forced the Colonial Pipeline to shut down in May, supply is not the only issue. Many gas stations are without power, preventing them from functioning and making it more difficult for residents to fill generators.

The inhabitants are not the only ones to jostle each other.

Nearly a dozen grain export terminals dotted along the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge to the Gulf of Mexico have been without power throughout the week, disrupting export shipments from the largest grain export port from the country.

More than two-thirds of stations were without fuel in Baton Rouge and New Orleans on Friday, the most populous cities in the state, according to GasBuddy.com.

After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, some Louisianans invested in natural gas generators, and they were able to keep the lights on. Others weren’t so lucky.

In New Orleans, Aaron Lowe, 49, lined up at a gas station Thursday to wait for gasoline for the third day in a row. He said he and many others prepared for the storm by getting a generator, but finding gas has been difficult.

“I had to wait about 40 minutes (today),” said Lowe, a construction worker. “I’ve waited between two and four hours for the last few days.”

Lowe was at a Shell station on S. Claiborne Avenue in New Orleans, which ran on generators, said Abdul Saleh, the station manager.

Station outages have not been a supply issue, said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, even as some oil producers and refiners in the region struggle to get started. Read more

“There are a lot of stations that have a lot of gasoline but can’t move it because they don’t have electricity,” he said.

In Baton Rouge, 71.6% of gas stations were fuel-free on Friday, while in New Orleans 66.2% were fuel-free, according to GasBuddy data. This could mean they are without fuel or electricity, De Haan said.

As of Friday, around 860,000 homes and businesses in the state still lacked electricity.

Retail gasoline prices in New Orleans rose 6 cents last week, to $ 2.868 for a gallon of regular gasoline, according to data from the American Automobile Association.

FIND GENERATORS

Some even have trouble getting their hands on a generator.

In Baton Rouge, Austin Corona tried from Tuesday to Thursday to find a generator, before giving up. The heat has been so unbearable that Corona, 55, slept in her car in the driveway this week. Generators are buzzing throughout his neighborhood, he said.

Some hardware stores have started to regain power in the region, he said on Friday. After a store reopened earlier this week, Corona rushed to get a generator, but they sold them out within an hour.

Corona, a retail executive, said her power finally came back online by noon on Friday.

Multinational grain trader Cargill Inc is looking for large generators to operate its Westwego crop export terminal, Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain told Reuters.

Strain said the company may have been told to prepare for an extended power outage. “They’re going to have to buy them from any company that has them big enough, and then bring them in here. Then the big problem will be feeding them,” he said.

Strain has helped businesses and government agencies stock up on fuel to run generators and has targeted “red-dyed diesel,” normally used to power farm machinery and all-terrain vehicles, after the Environmental Protection Agency has issued emergency fuel waivers.

Cargill declined to comment.

Reporting by Stephanie Kelly in New York, Devika Krishna Kumar in New Orleans, Karl Plume in Chicago, Additional reporting by PJ Huffstutter Editing by Marguerita Choy

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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