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Gas Stations Fill Up After Feeding Frenzy

MIAMI -- With Hurricane Rita keeping motorists off the road, many South Florida gas stations spent a quiet Tuesday replenishing supplies thinned out by drivers who had topped off tanks in anticipation of the storm, the Miami Herald's Web site reported.

A Shell gas station operator in Hollywood, Fla., reported selling 8,000 gallons of gasoline Monday, more than three times its normal 2,300 gallons sold. Another Hollywood gas station, a Chevron on North Federal Highway, said it did three times its normal business, according to .

But on Tuesday, stations were quiet.

"It has been dead now for the past two, three hours. No one has even come by to buy a pack of cigarettes," Robert Gomez, working his second straight 17-hour day as cashier at the Pinecrest Chevron told . "Seventeen long, boring hours."

A Herald survey of 69 gas stations Tuesday afternoon in Miami-Dade and Broward counties found just four stations with tanks completely dry and 12 other stations out of a particular grade of gasoline.

Max Alvarez, whose company supplies gas to 150 South Florida stations and operates 40 stations, said trucks were on the road Tuesday restocking supplies. He told that shortages were most acute in southern Miami-Dade, because high winds kept gasoline trucks from getting there to resupply stations.

"There is no need to panic," said Alvarez, president and CEO of Sunshine Gasoline Distributors in Miami. "There is plenty of product."

Port Everglades, where all of South Florida's gasoline is received by tanker and then distributed to gas stations, reopened to ship traffic Tuesday afternoon.

According to , Cragin Mosteller, spokeswoman for Florida's Department of Environment Protection, said Port Everglades has 57.5 million gallons of gasoline. She called it a "solid supply for typical demand." In the next three days, 77.2 million gallons are expected on 16 ships, she added.

Meanwhile, prices at the pump continued to drop as fears of a hurricane-inspired shortage disappeared. The average price of regular unleaded gasoline came in at $2.84 per gallon, according to the Herald survey. On Monday, it was $2.86. The decline continues the move toward levels seen before Hurricane Katrina when the same stores surveyed reported prices at $2.82. The week after Katrina, the average survey price spiked to $2.99 and many stations pushed prices north of $3 a gallon, reported.

As Rita moved toward the Gulf of Mexico, one of the United States' most important energy-producing regions, Florida Petroleum Council Executive Director Dave Mica reiterated his concern that the storm could hit Texas oil refineries and oil rigs, (See Bracing for the Storm) which were spared by Katrina, or wallop recovering Gulf Coast producers again.

"We were in full recovery, but now we are back getting into readiness mode," Mica said in a report.

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