So in the central part of a certain state that starts with a "T" and has recently been hit a hurricane, the rumor is out that there is a gas shortage coming. And so somehow, we went from business as normal all week to "Gaspocalypse" in the course of about 5 hours.
It is crazy. Driving about this evening and afternoon,, every gas station I passed had lines, sometimes out into lanes of traffic. Mind you, this was after the media and government had been announcing for at least the preceding 3 hours that there in fact was no fuel shortage. By the time I came home from class at 10, many of the stations I had passed had their pumps roped off or covered - and the ones that did not still had lines trying to get fuel. A local station by us raised their prices twice in one day: Started the day at $2.29, ended the day at $2.59 - and there were people still lined up waiting.
Somewhat curiously (to myself, anyway) I predicted this was going to happen - not so much the gas shortage as the perception of the gas shortage. The van was filled twice over the weekend just in case. I got gas this morning (I usually get it on Tuesday nights, but had to push it off) at $1.98 at PriceCo; out of curiousity I want to drive by tomorrow and see what the status is.
The actual lessons here - beyond do not believe everything your read or hear - are two:
1) Being prepared means you never have to get prepared. Maybe you have to stock up a bit, but not as if you had nothing at all.
2) When people react, they overreact. Imagine if this was an actual emergency - or if it involved more than just fuel.
3) (Bonus Round) I think a great many people drive around with their fuel tanks much more empty than they should be.
I have said it before: the modern economy is an incredibly fragile interlace of webs. The unraveling of only a few can have dramatic impacts. Add to that the tendency of people to act foolishly and in herds in a crisis and we have all the makings of a real disaster.