HOLMES BEACH, Fla. (WFLA) — After spending much of Hurricane Idalia worrying about whether or not their homes would flood (and some did), Anna Maria Island neighbors didn’t think so filling up at a local gas station would cause even more problems.
But Cheryl Perez’s son was driving to Tampa when his troubles began.
“I got on the Manatee Bridge,” Perez recalls. “He was on the hill at the top of the bridge when the car stopped. Call me and ask me to please call the police.”
He had his truck towed to the local auto repair shop.
“The first thing they asked him was, ‘You didn’t happen to get gas at the Shell station, did you?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, about 15, 20 minutes ago,'” Perez said. “They said, ‘Oh, you’re the fifth or sixth car that called us. The cars stopped after getting gas.’”
The Shell gas station on Marina Drive in Holmes Beach had been flooded during Idalia, with the storm surge covering almost a foot above the ground. ATCO, Inc., the company that owns the gas station, confirmed to 8 On Your Side that about a foot of water got into some of their underground tanks, which ATCO said impacted sales of a few hundred gallons.
“When you come back here, they have their tanks open,” Perez said. “They think it’s open, they should be fine.”
On Tuesday, the regular and medium gas options were scrapped, leaving customers no longer able to take advantage of them – only Premium.
“Especially right after the hurricane,” Perez said. “You’re already stressed out. We’ve all had water damage and you know floods and things like that and they’ve got to come and add that on top of that.”
There is now a form at the petrol station that customers can fill out if their car has been damaged by the contaminated petrol.
“It’s frustrating,” Perez said. “Say the least.”
Ned Bowman is executive director of the Florida Petroleum Marketing and Convenience Store Association.
“I think that’s what the caps that are on top of the spill buckets are for,” Bowman explained. “The seal was bad, so when it flooded, this seal was supposed to keep water from getting into the tank.”
And that may not have been the only failure, according to Bowman.
“Typically there’s a sensor in the gas tank that knows the volume and should also pick up the water based on the amount of water in it,” Bowman said. “So something could have gone wrong.”
While it shouldn’t do too much damage to a car, it takes effort to get the water out.
“You have to drop the tank, the gas tank in the back,” Bowman said. “You have to rinse that out, you have to change all the filters, blow out the petrol filters, the lines and then fill in new petrol, start and blow out.”
To fix the problem and get all of those pumps back to full working order, ATCO said all underground tanks would need to be drained and refilled with proper gasoline, which should be done by the end of the week.