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Drivers race for fuel as supply dwindles


    The Hele gas station at the corner of Cooke and South King streets was closed Thursday. The pumps were secured and cordoned off due to Hurricane Lane.


    The Hele gas station at the corner of Cooke and South King streets was closed Thursday. The pumps were secured and cordoned off due to Hurricane Lane.

Having a car with a full fuel tank can be important in advance of a hurricane even on an island with limited places to drive. Yet filling up or topping off was harder to do Thursday as many gas stations around the state closed.

Around 100 or more gas stations were closed Thursday largely for safety precautions ahead of harmful weather from Hurricane Lane that began to hit Hawaii island Thursday and is expected next for Maui County and then Oahu.

At the same time, there were sporadic instances of some gas stations running out of fuel because tanker trucks could not resupply stations faster than motorists pumped gas.

Danny Kiaaina, who pulled his truck into a Texaco station in Kalihi on Thursday ahead of when he normally would gas up, wanted a full tank in case he needed to avoid floodwaters or other destruction from the storm.

“I remember (Hurricane) Iniki,” he said. “I seen a lot of damage.”

Jim Morse of Mililani stopped at an Aloha Petroleum station in Liliha before it closed at 3 p.m. even though his tank was 60 percent full. He said if the storm causes a power outage that lasts for a couple of weeks, he doesn’t want to be stranded if gas stations can’t pump gas.

Aloha Petroleum, which has about 90 Aloha and 14 Shell stations statewide, closed all its Oahu and Maui stations Thursday after previously closing its stations in Hilo on Hawaii island. Company stations on the Kona side of Hawaii island and on Kauai remained open.

Par Hawaii, the company that owns the Hele and 76 brands in Hawaii, closed 37 stations it owns around the state at noon Thursday. However, another roughly 60 stations under the same brands licensed to independent operators decided on their own whether to close, and many stayed open.

At a Hele station in Kakaako, yellow caution tape was strung up across entrances, duct tape was applied to convenience store windows and gas pumps were wrapped in plastic. A sign on each pump said, “Due to Hurricane Lane store will be closing today at 12:00 p.m. Thank you for your patience during this time.”

Of the 56 Texaco stations around the state, only one in Hilo and one in Waiakea on Hawaii island were closed Thursday, and that was because of weather conditions at each site.

“Right now we’re monitoring the situation,” said Carina Tagupa, communications and community engagement manager for Island Energy Services, which owns the Texaco stations and a refinery in Kapolei that used to be under the Chevron name.

Tagupa said there have been instances this week where certain stations were temporarily out of gas because customers began their rush on fueling as early as Monday.

“We have an ample supply of gasoline,” she said. “Our delivery capabilities have been pretty taxed. People are filling up faster than we can replenish.”

Lance Tanaka, a spokesman for the other major gas producer on the island, Par Hawaii, said Par also has plenty of gas to supply stations.

“Inventory is fine,” he said. “The fuel is here. It’s just getting it logistically to the stations. (Customer) demand was so great.”

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