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Short gas supplies won't nip North Georgians' travel bug

Concerned about the supply? It all depends on where you’re going

POSTED: October 1, 2008 5:01 a.m.

Gasoline may be in short supply, but that isn't changing people's plans to travel this weekend and filling up their tanks in preparation, according to AAA.

"Because we're coming to the weekend, people want to make sure they have gas for the weekend," Randy Bly, a spokesman for AAA Auto Club South, said Friday afternoon. He said Friday had been one of the worst days for fuel supply in metro Atlanta during the recent gasoline shortage.

Even if you fill up the tank for your trip, whether you'll be able to refuel when you get to your weekend destination depends on where you're heading, Bly said.

Bly said shortages are continuing in parts of North Georgia and metro Atlanta, including Gainesville, Hartwell and Dalton, while fuel supplies are OK in Savannah and Brunswick. Augusta and nearby Aiken, S.C., are reporting five out of six gas stations don't have fuel, he said.

But it's the short supply in Athens that Bly said is of real concern this weekend, with thousands of football fans converging on the town for tonight's Georgia-Alabama game.

"Athens was seeing a huge problem (with supply), and of course with the big game coming up, that's a real concern," Bly said.

He said people traveling on Interstate 20 also could expect the big game to affect supply there, as Crimson Tide supporters drive along that corridor from Alabama to Atlanta and then to Athens for tonight's game.

"I think you're going to see even higher outages along that (I-20) corridor and on into Athens," Bly said.

The Associated Press reported that the owner of an Atlanta petroleum company even suggested canceling tonight's football game as fuel-saving measure, a suggestion called "ridiculous" by a spokesman for Gov. Sonny Perdue.

UGA Police Chief Jimmy Williamson is strongly urging those who plan to travel to Athens for the Georgia-Alabama game to fill their tanks before they get to the city, especially those traveling from long distances.

"We are experiencing shortages in the Athens area," Williamson said. "If you are coming to the game, you should make smart travel plans."

He also suggested those who were planning to come to Athens to tailgate but don't have tickets stay home if they won't have enough gas to make the round trip. Lastly, he urged people to leave at home any generators and other things that use extra gas.

"Once you run out, the government doesn't have a plan to assist you," Williamson said. "If our community's basically 110,000 people and we're experiencing some shortages right now, can you imagine Saturday when we double our population?"

Other big events scheduled across the region have people concerned about being able to refuel at their destination.

The telephone is ringing off the hook at the Dahlonega visitors center as cyclists from around the Southeast call to check the area's gas situation. Organizers of Sunday's 20th Annual 6-Gap/3-Gap Bike Ride hope nearly 2,500 riders from neighboring states still plan to participate in the 100-mile race despite sparse gas provisions.

Mary Ann Knight, manager of the Dahlonega-Lumpkin County Chamber of Commerce's visitors center, said she's been taking 50 to 60 calls a day from racers and potential tourists this week concerned whether Dahlonega gas stations will be able to provide them enough fuel to get back home to surrounding states.

"I've been on the phone all this week asking gas stations, ‘Do you have gas? When do you expect gas?'" Knight said. "There's gas here, it's just a matter of finding which station."

Knight said racers and their families typically flood Dahlonega for the annual bike exposition today and the treacherous mountain race on Sunday. She said three gas stations in Dahlonega were stocked with fuel Friday, and gas station owners reported more fuel is scheduled to be delivered to area stations today and Sunday.

"I think we'll be alright if people don't keep doing this topping-off thing and leave some gas for our visitors," she said.

The bike race weekend usually rakes in about $2.2 million for Dahlonega businesses, according to the Dahlonega-Lumpkin County Chamber of Commerce.

Bly said he believes increased traffic this weekend to tourist spots across North Georgia could affect gas supply.

"I suspect this weekend is going to be dicey for your area," he said. "There's a huge demand on gasoline for that area."

If your weekend plans including boating on the lake instead of traveling, you will be able to find fuel. But Gainesville Marina may have to start rationing its fuel sales if a shipment does not come in soon, said managing co-owner Philip Burton. Burton was expecting a fuel delivery Friday evening, but if not, he may ask customers to limit their purchases to make sure they don't run out of gas.

"Currently we do have some fuel here at the marina," Burton said. "We're hoping we've got enough to get us through the weekend."

What if you're planning to take an out-of-state trip? Will you find gas when you get there? That depends on where you're going, Bly said.

He said shortages have been reported in parts of the Carolinas, including Aiken, Greenville and Spartanburg in South Carolina and Charlotte, Greensboro and Asheville in North Carolina. Supplies have improved in Tennessee, including Chattanooga, Knoxville and Nashville, Bly said. Fuel supplies are fine in Florida, he added.

Bly recommended trying to reschedule your trip for a later date if you're planning to visit an area that is experiencing gas shortages this weekend. If you have to make a long trip to an area with spotty gas supply, he said to make sure your tank doesn't get below half full. Once you fall below that level, you immediately need to start looking, he said.

Then again, if you have half a tank of gas and aren't planning to go anywhere this weekend, Bly said you should avoid topping off your tank in panic.

"You've got plenty," he said.

Senior content editor Edie Rogers and reporters Jessica Jordan and Melissa Weinman contributed to this report.

 



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