TAMPA, Fla. — Florida authorities are cautioning drivers about the possibility of fuel contamination at numerous gas stations along the Gulf Coast as residents prepare for the imminent arrival of Tropical Storm Idalia later this week.
As of Monday, Idalia was situated near the Cuban coast and was projected by the National Hurricane Center to potentially make landfall as a hurricane in the southern United States in the upcoming days.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services issued a statement on Sunday, stating that gasoline purchased after 10 a.m. Saturday at certain Citgo-supplied gas stations might have been tainted with diesel fuel.
Citgo has identified 29 affected stations, which are associated with chains such as 7-Eleven, BJ’s Wholesale, and other convenience stores. These stations are located in cities like Tampa, Fort Myers, and Sarasota.
The contamination was attributed to a “human error,” according to the department. Citgo, headquartered in Houston, acknowledged in a statement on Sunday that a product routing problem occurred at its Tampa terminal.
Citgo has notified the potentially impacted locations to cease fuel sales and is actively working to remove the contaminated fuel from all stations that could have received it.
Using this contaminated fuel could result in engine damage or malfunctions in vehicles, warned state officials. This is of heightened concern due to the possibility of residents needing to evacuate as Idalia approaches.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis remarked during a Sunday news conference that the Port of Tampa contamination was occurring just before the storm, adding, “If (consumers) filled up at any one of these stations, they probably don’t want to drive their car — because you’re going to have people potentially just stuck on the side of the road.”
Forecasters predict that Idalia will likely become a hurricane by Tuesday in the Gulf of Mexico, curving northeastward toward Florida’s Gulf Coast. The storm could approach Florida with winds exceeding 111 mph (179 kph) on Tuesday and Wednesday, potentially reaching Category 3 hurricane status, according to the National Weather Service.
Alongside flood and power outage advisories, Florida emergency officials are also urging residents to keep their gas tanks at least half-full in case evacuation becomes necessary.
The Florida Division of Emergency Management emphasized on social media, “This will ensure you can evacuate tens of miles inland to a safe location should the need arise.”
Individuals who suspect they might have purchased contaminated gas from affected stations are encouraged to reach out to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to file a complaint. Additionally, they can initiate a claim through Citgo’s Good Gas Guarantee program.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services noted, “Impacted stations have been asked to stop selling gas until the contaminated fuel is replaced and tanks are cleaned. Once the stations are cleared or have completed a corrective action plan, fuel will once again be safe for purchase.”