Low-cost gasoline outlets such as Costco on North Reserve Street briefly ran out of gasoline Thursday, as customers hustled to fill tanks in anticipation of ever-higher prices.
3We1re selling gas like everyone,Ã½ said assistant manager Dan Walsh.
The rush at Costco caused pumps to shut down for a short time Thursday, when the storage tanks ran low. But minutes later, another gasoline truck rolled into the lot and refilled the tanks.
Missoula1s Costco received two shipments of fuel Thursday, and three are scheduled for Friday.
3Are we going to run out of gasoline? No,Ã½ Walsh said.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina1s destruction of oil refineries in the South, fuel prices this week have soared an average of 20 cents per gallon across Montana, said Denise Harris of AAA Montana.
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That1s typical compared to the national average, but much lower than the highest reported rates.
The U.S. Department of Energy reported an average per-gallon increase of about a dime - to $2.61 - between Monday and Wednesday this week. That1s up 74 cents a gallon from a year ago. The DOE1s data did not include Thursday1s gasoline retail prices.
In response to the rising cost of fuel at the pump, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has temporarily eased pollution standards to allow lower-grade gasoline to be sold in 46 states. And President Bush has announced the release of some oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
But those distant developments didn1t impact Montana1s gas pumps Thursday, and Montana gas retailers have not experienced rationing or shortages, Harris said from her Bozeman office.
3We1re not there yet,Ã½ Harris said.
In fact, it was business as usual for most gasoline retailers in the Missoula area. Some stores reported long lines at the pumps, but few reported shortages because of the extraordinarily high sales.
3There was the typical nervousness among customers,Ã½ said Thomas Haffey, manager of Muralt1s Travel Plaza at the junction of U.S. Highway 93 North and Interstate 90.
Whenever gas prices rise, Haffey finds himself answering questions from customers. On Thursday, many asked if he thought the plaza would run out of fuel. But with 26,000 gallons of gasoline in the store1s underground tanks, Haffey had volume to spare.
Chains such as Town Pump reported no temporary closures Thursday.
3But it1s definitely the talk,Ã½ Haffey said.
Reporter Robert Struckman can be reached at 523-5262 or email@example.com