As a telecommuter, I don't need to buy fuel as often as most people do. So when I discovered last night that it cost nearly $60 to fill up my Camry, I thought to myself, "I knew gas was expensive, but I didn't realize it had gotten this expensive. I guess it's gotten worse since Katrina."
Turns out that more than that was at work. Here's the Baltimore Sun's William Wan:
The panic, traffic jams, depleted gas stations and angry crowds -- it all began yesterday, as these things often do, with a whopper of a tall tale.
The rumor was this: Because of shortages, all Maryland gas stations would be shut down at 4 p.m. yesterday afternoon until after the Labor Day weekend.
But as word spread, what began as a rumor transformed reality. Panicked drivers rushed to the pump in droves, exhausting supplies, closing some stations and sending prices soaring at many of those remaining open….
The Baltimore mayor's office fielded calls all day from worried residents. City police posted officers at stations with the longest lines. The governor held a news conference to urge calm among consumers.
One station, with its fuel disappearing and its distributor unable to resupply it anytime soon, raised its prices to $4.97 a gallon for regular and $7.03 for super. It still ran out of regular. Its owner also says that someone posing as a government official called her to relay the alleged shutdown order.
A similar panic plagued Virginia as well, and Wan reports that "gas-related rumors have also hit other parts of the East Coast and Florida."