***There is an updated version of this story.***
CUMMING – Forsyth County drivers are feeling the crunch of the ongoing gas shortage, and it appears guzzles may be dry for weeks, not days.
Since a pipeline ruptured earlier this month in Alabama, leaking at least 250,000 gallons of fuel, residents in Georgia and surrounding states have dealt with gas shortages and increased prices.
Sam Budhani, owner of Leon’s Food Market on Matt Highway in west Forsyth, said the struggle is far from over.
“I spoke to my [driver] this morning, and they said it looks like, before it eases, it may take two more weeks,” Budhani said on Monday.
While there is no official statement predicting the length of the shortage, officials are taking measures to help Georgians for its duration.
Also on Monday, Gov. Nathan Deal issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency in Georgia and banning gas price gouging.
“There have been recent reports that wholesale and retail gas prices have substantially increased in some markets,” Deal said in a news release. “In order to remedy this, I've issued an executive order reiterating the state law prohibiting price gouging.
“In addition to this, I’ve sought and received a waiver from the Environmental Protection Agency as well as lifted operating regulations for commercial truck drivers hauling motor fuel.”
Costal Pipeline, the Alpharetta-based company that owns the ruptured line, has been working "around the clock" to repair the break, and supplies have either been delivered or are on their way to locations in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina and North Carolina.
Between 252,000 gallons and 336,000 gallons of oil leaked from a pipeline near Helena, Alabama, since the spill was first detected Sept. 9. It's unclear when the spill actually began. The U.S. Department of Transportation is investigating the incident.
Colonial Pipeline said over the weekend that it was beginning construction of a temporary pipeline that will bypass a leaking section of its main gasoline pipeline in Shelby County, Alabama. Its statement Monday did not say when that temporary pipeline is expected to be up and running.
Deal recommended Monday that drivers maintain their usual travel schedules and gas consumption levels in an effort to not put further strain on gas distribution.
That strain can be felt throughout the area.
Bags could be seen covering pumps at the Race Trac gas station off Buford Highway/Exit 14 of Ga. 400 Monday. The Texaco on Atlanta Highway (Hwy. 9) had hand-written signs declaring the station was “temporarily out of fuel.”
Only 3.25 gallons guzzled out of a pump at the Tri-County Plaza Chevron – at $2.59 a gallon.
Leon’s Budhani said the price of gas at his store increased in the wake of the shortage but was still in the $2.50 range. He said Leon’s is a community store, and the change was due to overhead costs rather than to bilk money from customers.
“I don’t believe in taking advantage of the situation and charging more,” he said. “Prices have gone up a little because some of the truckers are getting gas from other states, like Louisiana, so cost of freight has jumped 25-30 cents, so that’s why we have to go up a little bit.”
He said his store ran out of gas a few times while dealing with the shortage, in part due to an interrupted delivery schedule.
“One truck is 8,000 gallons,” Budhani said. “We order a truck and we hardly get 2,000 or 3,000 gallons of gas, then the next is [not] coming out for four or five days.”
Jerry Deeds, who was filling his truck at the store on Monday, said he has dealt with higher prices and shortages.
“It’s jumped up a good bit,” he said. “A couple of days ago, we had to get gas. It showed one price, but they only had the premium over there and it jumped from $2.45 to S2.90.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.