florida gas stations prepare for storms

Hurricane season will put new generator law to the test.

As the 2007 hurricane season begins, many gas station owners are still scrambling to adhere to a new state law requiring certain gas stations within a half-mile of an interstate highway or evacuation route to be prewired so that a generator can be quickly installed by the beginning of this year’s hurricane season, which was Friday.

The law, which the Florida Legislature passed last year, aims to solve a common problem during hurricanes: the inability to pump gas during power outages. In Alachua County, Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection lists 85 gas stations that must install generator hookups. But the list, which includes more than 1,500 gas stations statewide, is plagued with inaccuracies, according to gas station owners and industry representatives, the Gainesville Sun reported.

And the current list is actually revised from an original list that only listed 254 gas stations throughout the state, DEP officials said.

“Most of my members are just as confused as they can be,” said Jim Smith of the Florida Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Stores Association, which represents gas stations throughout the state, including several in Alachua County. “People want to comply, but they want to know who really has to and who doesn’t. Most of my members, especially the mom and pop businesses, feel like this has been a big confusing mess.”

Yasmin Wallas, a spokesman for the DEP, said the department is aware the current list contains inaccuracies, and said dozens of field inspectors are traveling throughout the state to verify which stations need to wire for a generator and which do not.

But DEP officials said the deadline for complying, which was Friday, wouldn’t change. Wallas said the DEP sent letters to gas station owners in December outlining the requirement, which applies mainly to larger gas stations along evacuation routes. The requirement depends on the number of filling stations and the population of the county.

In Alachua County, the requirement applies to stations with at least six fuel dispensers, or 12 filling stations.

Gerald Davis, a spokesman for Sunoco, told the newspaper that Sunoco had planned to install generator hookups for all required stations, including a few in Alachua County, by the June 1 deadline. He said many Sunoco stations already have the necessary wiring, and said the company keeps several generators in a Central Florida location to be shipped to other parts of the state in case hurricanes knock out power.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center has projected a 75% chance that the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season will be above normal. NOAA estimates 13 to 17 major storms.

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