Not only is there a gasoline shortage in the northeast states hammered by Hurricane Sandy. It turns out there is also a gasoline can shortage.
As consumers race to fill their tanks, or replenish generators that have run dry because so many gas stations in the storm zone have shut down, they are encountering a shortage of the plastic containers used to transport or store small quantities of fuel.
The Portable Fuel Container Manufacturers Association (PFCMA) has reported the shortage of containers, noting the storm has exhausted inventories of portable gas cans, and manufacturers are unable to keep up with demand for the familiar red cans that are a standard part of most storm recovery kits.
Major plant closed in July
What's behind the shortage? It's not just that consumers went out before the storm to buy up all available cans. American manufacturing capacity dropped by about 70 percent with the July 31 closing of the nation's largest producer of consumer fuel cans.
The association maintains the company closed under the weight of litigation in cases primarily characterized by product misuse. It says that resulted in fewer cans on store shelves.
"Our members are moving all available inventory out to customers, and most are going into back order," said Amanda Emerson, PFCMA spokeswoman. "They are running full out to try and meet demand, but estimates for back-ordered product delivery are ranging from two to five weeks."
Particularly for winter storms, gasoline is critical for back-up power to provide heating for homes and buildings in large population centers. The shortage of portable containers, PFCMA says, is a safety issue.
"If gas cans aren't available, disaster victims need to understand that they put themselves and everyone around them at great risk if they use makeshift containers to transport and store fuel," PFCMA said in a press release. "PFCMA is urging storm victims protect themselves and their neighbors by following safety guidelines for proper storage and handling of fuel."
Consumers should always exercise caution when storing or transporting a flammable product like gasoline. Never use old soda bottles or other makeshift containers to store gas; someone might think it's a beverage and drink it. And even a small cup of gasoline can emit vapors and may ignite.
Gasoline should be stored in a well-ventilated area outside your vehicle and living space. It should be kept away of heat, spark or flame. Consumers should also read the warning labels on gasoline containers.