Panic Buying of Gasoline in Florida, 40% of Miami Stations Out of Gas: Blame Anti-Gouging Laws for Shortages

MISHTALK–As Hurricane Irma nears Florida, everyone is in a rush to fill up their tanks. About 40% of the gasoline stations in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale region are now without fuel. Floridians have turned to the Crowd-Sourced ‘Gas Buddy’ App to determine which stations still have gas.

The above image from the web version of Gas Buddy Tracker. Zoom into the area you’re looking for gas to see the red and green symbols indicating fuel shortages. Gas Buddy says the mobile app is more accurate.

Patrick DeHaan, the senior petroleum analyst at Gas Buddy, said their newest feature – the Gas Availability Tracker – has now been rolled out to those who could be affected by Hurricane Irma in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.

“The tool seeks to help motorists in need to find gasoline, and certainly in some cases. will also help motorists find stations that have power,” DeHaan said.

The app was developed during Hurricane Harvey in Texas. People can log in to view gas stations in their area. A red fuel pump icon indicates the station currently has gas. A red lightning bolt icon indicates the station has power, especially helpful for those in areas affected by power outages.

The data is largely crowdsourced by users who submit information through the app.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced in Miami that he’s asked the governors of Alabama and Georgia to waive trucking regulations so tankers can get fuel into the city, which is experiencing one of the largest shortages statewide as residents prepare for the hurricane’s landfall.

He told residents of the Florida Keys that “we’re doing everything to get fuel to you as quickly as possible.” Tourists are under a mandatory evacuation order, which began Wednesday morning.

Residents will then be ordered to evacuate, but the fuel shortage is putting a hitch in that.

Governor Promotes Gas Buddy, Expedia, Google Maps, Xfinity

TechCrunch reports As Irma nears, Florida Governor tells residents to use Gas Buddy, Expedia, Google Maps.

Speaking at a press conference this morning, Florida Governor Rick Scott told state residents to turn to apps and other online resources, including Gas Buddy, Google Maps, Expedia and Comcast’s Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspot finder, to help them find fuel, navigate safely, and stay connected both ahead of and following Hurricane Irma’s arrival.

The lack of readily available gasoline, in particular, has been a huge problem facing the state – something that Scott admitted he knew had been “frustrating” in this time of crisis. Not only have some gas stations had long lines, many simply keep running out of gas entirely, as people prepare for possible evacuations by topping off their tanks.

The company tells TechCrunch that it’s now seeing hundreds of gas stations across Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina without fuel. It says the hardest hit cities are Miami (30% of stations are out of gas), West Palm Beach (29%), Fort Myers-Naples (20%), Tampa (13%), and Orlando (9% are out.)

The app has seen a ton of usage following Harvey and ahead of Irma – its App Store ranking has jumped 150 spots over the past week or so, and is now in the top 50 Overall.

In addition to Gas Buddy, Scott noted that the state was working with Google to keep its mapping app updated with the most current information on road closures.

“Real time traffic information and evacuation routes is available at FL511.com,” said Scott. “We have traffic cameras on every major roadway in the state and are clearing traffic issues in real-time so we can keep people moving,” he continued. “We’re coordinating with Google’s emergency response team to prepare to close roads in Google Maps in real-time in the event that Hurricane Irma forces a closure of any roads in the aftermath of the storm,” Scott added.

Of course, the Google-owned Waze app may be more useful ahead of Irma’s landfall. The crowdsourced navigation tool is great for finding out about traffic incidents, road closures, speeds, and other hazards in real-time as well. This information is additionally fed into Google.org’s Crisis Maps, which displays other details like precipitation, public alerts, evacuation routes, shelters, forecasts and more.

“If you need a hotel, go to Expedia.com/florida,” said Scott. “Expedia is working on hotel occupancy in real-time.”

Scott noted that Comcast was opening 137,000 hotspots to help people stay connected, too. These Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspots will be made free across the state for non-Xfinity customers and subscribers alike. AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile are all setting up additional Wi-Fi hotspots as well, he said.

Hurricane Preparation

The Florida.Gov website has updates on Hurricane Irma Preparedness.

Today, Governor Rick Scott received a full update on Hurricane Irma from the State Emergency Operations Center. The Governor is traveling the state today to meet with local officials, ensure communities have all the resources they may need, and to encourage families and visitors to be fully prepared. Evacuation orders have been issued in Monroe County and additional orders are expected as the storm nears the state. The Governor will continue to be in constant communication with state and local emergency management officials, city and county leaders, and utility officials who are also working to ensure the state is prepared to respond to any potential impacts from Hurricane Irma.

Evacuation Notices and Orders

  • Broward County has issued voluntary evacuations of mobile homes and low-lying areas beginning today.
  • Collier County has issued voluntary evacuations of Marco Island beginning today.
  • Monroe County has issued mandatory evacuations for visitors beginning this morning. Mandatory evacuations for residents will begin this evening.
  • Individuals with special needs started being evacuated from Miami-Dade County this morning.
  • Additional evacuations are expected throughout the state. All Floridians should pay close attention to local alerts and follow the directions of local officials.
  • To find available shelters by county, visit floridadisaster.org/shelters

The site also lists school closures and emergency numbers.