An angry driver in a pickup floored past the flag woman directing cars into the line for Peninsula Co-op Gas at Royal Oak Plaza Saturday morning.
Other drivers waited patiently to make the turn from West Saanich Road into the long line of cars snaking round the parking lot.
“Are you looking for gas?” asked the flag woman. “I’ll just let you know, the lineup is round the corner and goes all the way around the building. The tanker truck came about half an hour ago, filled up and now it’s all being settled. So this first car here will be filling up at 11:30 a.m. and the rest of the cars will follow suit. Lots of gas now.”
Motorists buying gas for “non-essential” vehicles are limited to 30 litres per station visit until Dec. 1 on Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, the southwest B.C. mainland and the Sunshine Coast. The provincial government put the measures in place on Friday in response to a reduced supply of gasoline after this past week’s devasting floods.
The rationing produced varied responses around the region on Saturday. A number of stations were out of gas and waiting for fuel to arrive. Others, like the Fairfield Petro-Canada, had long lineups by 8 a.m.
People shared information on the newly created Greater Victoria Gas Updates Facebook page, posting when tanker trucks arrived at the pumps and how long the lineups were. Some desperate drivers, running on fumes, were trying to find stations close to home to fuel up. There were also unconfirmed reports of people siphoning gas from other people’s vehicles.
And back at Peninsula Co-op, most people seemed quite happy to sit in their cars for two hours for 30 litres of gas.
Michelle MacDonald was first in line, sitting in the sun waiting for her chance to refuel. During the two-hour wait, she bought groceries, had a coffee and got cookies for the flag people.
People are just panicking, said MacDonald, who supports the government’s gas rationing.
“I needed gas for work next week and I had nothing to do. So it’s like, whatever,” she said with a shrug.
Teacher Rick Sprigg had been in the line for 40 minutes and expected to wait another hour and 20 minutes.
“We wouldn’t put more than 30 litres in. That’s what they’re asking for, right? I’m not going to be that guy,” he said.
Tracy White was nearly out of gas, her fuel gauge on its last bar.
“I won’t have any fuel if I don’t fill up now,” said the school district employee. “I don’t know how you can panic buy gas. I’m just filling up my tank for regular day-to-day use.”
The 30 litres will do for essentials, White said.
“Then I’ll just have to limit my travel and maybe start riding my bike to work. But at least I’ll have something in my tank for essential trips.”
Willis Point Volunteer Fire captain Marc Otte used his Jeep to get to the fire hall Saturday morning, then realized he was almost out of gas. He was going to ask Co-op staff if he could fill up in case he is out of the district when an emergency call comes in.
“I’ll see what they have to say,” Otte said.
Police departments around the Island urged people not to panic buy.
Although Campbell River was relatively unscathed by the severe weather, fears of supply shortages have created an unnecessary buying fury at many gas stations and grocery stores, leading to actual shortages, said Const. Maury Tyre.
The issue is not supply shortage, he explained. Businesses have an expectation for how often they will require fuel trucks, produce and other necessities of life to arrive. They base that on regular business patterns and order and schedule deliveries accordingly.
“When people panic buy, it throws off those schedules and stocks very quickly and can take the businesses a little bit of time to reschedule their deliveries,” Tyre said. “Hoarding will only create a temporary shortage that fuels people’s fears. If people just shop in their normal way, things will be fine.”
In Oak Bay, Police Chief Ray Bernoties sent out a tweet reminding drivers that gas station employees are not trained or paid to deal with people at their worst.
“Let’s make sure when we fuel up, buy eggs, encounter a flag person or anyone else who may be feeling the brunt, we show them some love.”