Lines back up for miles as drivers wait for fuel

Published 5:00 am Friday, September 2, 2005

Long lines continued to snake down highways and around citystreet blocks as motorists waited for gasoline.

“I’ve been out here since 9 (o’clock) this morning,” said McCombresident R. J. Freeman as he got gas around 2 p.m. Thursday a theB-Kwik Texaco on Highway 51.

At the station, one line of customers stretched down the highwaywhile another ran across the parking lot. Earlier Thursday, oneline even went up and down parking lanes in the lot.

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Freeman, who works at the Wal-Mart Distribution Center, saidthere was no gas in McComb. He credited Brookhaven’s ability torespond to gasoline needs.

“Brookhaven’s together. Unity,” said Freeman, adding that he mayhave time to grab something to eat on Brookway Boulevard. “I’mready to go to work at 3:30.”

As she scurried between pumps, owner Debra Cormier said she hadno idea how many customers the store had served. She said herfather ran a service station for 36 years and she had been in thebusiness she was a little girl.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Cormier said.

Gasoline was selling at the station for $2.79 a gallon. Cormiersaid there was a 20-gallon limit.

A constant sight around stations has been law enforcementofficers directing traffic and maintaining order to prevent peoplefrom breaking in line at the pumps. Cormier was appreciative oftheir help as well as that of dedicated employees.

“That’s helped a whole lot,” she said about the officers.

Officials have encouraged motorists to avoid unnecessary travelin order to conserve gasoline and to stay out of the way ofemergency response personnel and utility workers trying to restorepower and other services. Cormier echoed those sentiments.

“It’s really selfish to be driving around and using your carright now,” said Cormier, adding that she has stayed at herstations to operate them. “Driving is not in the picture rightnow.”

Elsewhere at the station, Kathy Davis of Harvey, La., wasgetting gas to try to return home to Jefferson Parish. Because ofthe emergency situation, she said she and her husband have to gowest.

“We can go back home. We just don’t know if we have a home to goto,” Davis said.

Down West Congress Street at City Mart #3, a line of vehiclesstretched across the Golden China parking lot at the station thatdid not have electricity.

“Everybody was hoping power would come back on at 1 p.m.,”cashier Mary Ann Nelson said around 3 p.m., adding that Entergycrews were working behind the store to restore electricity.

Being first in line, Eddie Guidroz, of Chalmette, La., was in agood spot for gasoline when power returns.

“If it comes on,” he said.

Guidroz was manning the truck after his cousin, Nelda Westbrook,had to go to work at Delphi Packard Electric. He has been stayingwith her since evacuating from Louisiana.

“I’ve got to say I appreciate the people of Mississippi very,very much,” Guidroz said. “It’s far different here. They help youhere.”

Unlike Davis, Guidroz knew his home survived the storm.

“I’ve seen the roof top,” he said.

Guidroz said it was in about 18 feet of water. He was concernedabout trying to contact neighbors to see how they fared.

Standing just outside the store, Willie Keys, of Brookhaven,waited for electricity to return. He said he was now fifth in linethanks to the impatience of some motorists.

“By people leaving, I was able to move up,” he said.

Lines resumed again this morning as motorists secured theirplaces in hopes of getting gasoline.

“There was one guy up there at 1:30 a.m.,” Police Officer WillieHarrison as he monitored a blocks-long line for fuel at ReevesService Station on Main Street.

“There’s some crazy stuff going on around here lately,” saidPatricia Banks as she and Tysa Hilliard leaned against their carsat the Court Street intersection.

They said they had been in line since around 6:45 a.m.

“There’s so many people from everywhere,” said Hilliard,commenting on the number of out-of-county license plates she hadseen.