Rumors of $5-per-gallon gasoline following the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., had Brainerd area motorists scrambling to the pumps Tuesday night.
The price increases, however, are attributed to people panicking and not a shortage of gasoline, said a Minnesota Petroleum Council spokesperson.
"The supply hasn't changed," said Darrel Bunge, executive director of the Minnesota Petroleum Council, a trade association that represents oil companies. "There are a lot of rumors out there, and that's what they are, just rumors. There's no reason to panic.
"The big thing now is to remain calm, go about the business of your day," Bunge added. "There is no need to hoard gasoline."
The lines of motorists at gas pumps in the Brainerd-Baxter area Tuesday told a different story, however, as cars stacked several deep at pumps -- sometimes blocks deep -- as a gas panic spread across the country. Motorists waited longer than an hour at some stations to fuel up.
"This is crazy," said Brainerd resident Shawna Mills as she surveyed the block-and-a-half line of cars backed up on Fifth Avenue Northeast waiting to get into the Triangle gas station Tuesday.
Joan Grunewald, owner of Holiday Station on Mill Avenue, said there was an hour wait to get gasoline.
"I wasn't going to fill up but I saw everyone else filling up so I thought I'd better," said one motorist at the Holiday Station. "I wish I had a Yugo."
Most people rushing to get gasoline Tuesday had heard from friends and family members that prices around the state had gone up to as much as $5 per gallon.
Tony Whitlock of Brainerd was at the pumps Tuesday filling up, but was more concerned about what a $3 gas price increase would do to his livelihood as a beer truck driver as a $100 gasoline bill could be turned into $500.
"People who haul for a living aren't going to be doing it, it won't be worth it," he said. "After tomorrow who knows what's going to happen."
Today some stations in Baxter-Brainerd had raised prices to $2.25 per gallon, though most stayed between $1.69-$1.89.
The gas crush has been nationwide as distribution terminals closed down for security reasons following the terrorist attacks.
Daron Van Helden, spokesperson for Minnesota AAA, said with no identifiable disruptions in the gasoline industry, rumors and fear will drive up gas prices.
"Right now we don't have a supply problem," Van Helden said. "People are their own worst enemy. They're going to drive the prices up themselves."
The nation's largest oil companies tried to allay concerns Tuesday by freezing their prices and pledging to keep distribution steady, but their efforts seemed to have little immediate impact.
Van Helden said the price inflation is a simple case of price gouging by some service stations and he had heard rumors of gas as high as $8 per gallon in the Twin Cities area.
"It's definitely gouging; $3, $4, $5, $6, $8 per gallon gas, there's no rational basis for that," said Van Helden.
Brainerd Fire Chief Kevin Mahle said he is concerned about people hoarding gas, especially of storing flammable liquids in containers not intended for that purpose.
He urged people to remain calm.
He said he is concerned about the fire risk associated with the inappropriate storage of flammable liquids. "That does concern me," he said.
(City Editor Kathi Nagorski and The Associated Press contributed to this story.)
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