As Tropical Storm Idalia strengthens, beware of shortages, price gouging at gas stations

As people across Florida prepare for what is forecast to become Hurricane Idalia, one of their first stops might be at the gas station.

The National Hurricane Center predicts that the storm will hit somewhere along Florida’s Big Bend area early Wednesday as a Category 3 hurricane. Idalia will bring 115 mph sustained winds and up to 11 feet of storm surge. The heavily populated Tampa Bay area could see four to seven feet.

Here’s what to know about filling up your vehicle’s tank:

Where is gas available?

To save time, drivers can use the GasBuddy tracker to search for nearby pumps — and check on their status. The tracker includes if they gas stations have fuel and power before and after the storm.

Miami-Dade and Broward counties also have lists of gas stations with generators.

Price gouging during a storm

In addition to supply issues, tropical storms and hurricanes also can come with fraud and price-gouging.

Price-gouging occurs both in the late preparation stages before a storm and in the immediate aftermath. A price increase isn’t automatically gouging. The law grants wiggle room for prices to be moved by supply and demand and what-the-market-will-bear. Nor is a price disparity alone, like Publix store brand water vs. Winn-Dixie’s store brand water, evidence of gouging.

After the governor declares a state of emergency, it’s illegal to rent or sell “at an unconscionable price ... any essential commodity including, but not limited to, supplies, services, provisions, or equipment that is necessary for consumption or use as a direct result of the emergency.”

Anyone who suspects price gouging should call the Office of the Attorney General at (866) 9NO-SCAM or file a complaint online at

Fuel contamination on Florida’s Gulf Coast

Florida officials on Sunday warned of “potentially widespread fuel contamination” from some two dozen Gulf Coast gas stations. The bad fuel, which would have been purchased after 10 a.m. Saturday, could harm or disable engines.

The gas supplied out of Port Tampa Bay by Citgo became contaminated because of “human error,” according to an alert from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Anyone who believes they bought the bad fuel should call 1-800-435-7352 or make a complaint at