POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Dec 31, 2010
The rumors weren't true, but when you live on an island like Kauai and remember toilet paper shortages because of dock strikes or dangerous winter seas that kept fuel barges from their regular runs, you move first, ask questions later.
The rumor seems to have started from a story about a mechanical break at the Chevron refinery at Campbell Industrial Park. Chevron spokesman Albert Chee said the break shouldn't affect the gas supply because of the Chevron's reserves.
"But from there the story just went in a different direction," said Kauai County public information officer Mary Daubert.
The Kauai mayor's office launched into fact-finding mode and disseminated information to try to quell the rumors.
"There is a rumor going around like wildfire that there is a gas tanker which was on its way to Kauai and broke down in the middle of the ocean, so that Kauai faces a gas crisis," Beth Tokioka, director of communications, wrote in a mass e-mail. "I talked to Bob Crowell from DOT Harbors Division and he is unaware of any ships bound for Kauai that are experiencing problems."
Meanwhile, some people like Kauai County Council Member Mel Rapozo took to social media to track down the source of the story.
"What's with the story about a problem with the fuel barge? Coconut wireless going crazy. Can't find anything on the internet. Anybody care to share what's going on?" Rapozo posted to his Facebook page (www.facebook.com/mrapozo) Tuesday night.
His query was met with dozens of responses. Everyone else had heard that, too. One woman said she had been in the waiting room of a doctor's office in Lihue and heard another patient "burning up all her friends' cell phones telling them to fill up their cars."
Rapozo did some investigating on his own and reported his findings on Facebook: "Checked with Kauai Petroleum. Nothing to worry about ... If all else fails, EAT BEANS :)"
While officials worked to dispel the rumors, people started heading to the pumps. Social media only goes so far, and the folks who are most likely to panic and line up for gas are the ones who rely on old-fashioned social media, like gossip over the produce section at Sueoka's or phone calls from elderly neighbors. There were lines for gas at several Kauai stations on the West Side and in Princeville.
And the lines beget lines. Even when people hear there's no problem, they start thinking that those folks who panicked are going to drain the tanks, so they figure they ought to fill up, too.
But despite what you might have heard, the fuel barge is fine and Kauai has gas. Or as Rapozo's daughter posted on his page, "Dad, no more nothing. You just filled up the gas for nothing. HAHAHA"