U.S. Braves Winter Storm, Power Outages

Hard-hit Texas has fuel, but supply chains are disrupted; states issue HOS waivers and emergency declarations.

February 18, 2021

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Severe winter weather that brought extremely low temperatures to much of the U.S. shut down oil refineries in Texas and Louisiana and disrupted downstream distribution, while rotating blackouts across multiple states contributed to the challenges convenience and fuel retailers face.

The severe weather temporarily disrupted fuel distribution in Texas, but fuel isn’t scarce in the state, Paul Hardin, president and CEO, Texas Food and Fuel Association, told NACS Daily.

“Texas is not low on fuel; we simply have an interruption in distribution to retail due to weather conditions,” Hardin said.

“While power outages have affected some terminals, we have yet to hear any members indicate a fuel shortage,” Hardin said. “All of the ones that I have spoken to in the past 48 hours simply do not want to put their drivers in harm’s way due to icy conditions. If there are deliveries, it has been focused on critical infrastructure accounts, such as hospitals, first responders, nursing homes, etc. Many indicated that they would begin retail deliveries today,” Hardin said yesterday.

In Texas, at least four million residents have gone without power, either intermittedly or altogether, for the third straight day as the state’s electricity grid heaved under the extreme conditions. Other states, including Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia also were experiencing power outages. More snow and freezing rain were expected across the South and East in coming days, while the Midwest and Plains states also battled record cold and snowfalls.

The storm shut down roads and forced stores and businesses to close across the South. Late yesterday, Walmart listed nearly 300 stores closed across the South and Midwest, according to a company store status map. CVS said it closed about 775 stores, and Walgreens said it had shuttered about 200 stores because of power issues, the New York Times reports.

In Austin, Texas, the shelves at 7-Eleven were cleared of food, while a line of customers waited to get inside, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Customers faced long lines to get into grocery stores in hard hit areas of the state.

Just north of Dallas, power outages took a toll on convenience stores in Sherman and Denison, Texas, reported KTEN news.

"Most of our convenience stores are open in the Sherman area," said Brad Douglass of Douglass Distributing. "Denison is a little sketchy in terms of what is there."

While the stores had sufficient gasoline to serve customers, there was no electricity to operate the pumps, and the unreliable power supply caused problems throughout the stores.

"The electrical power would go off, it would crash our electronics, so when the power would come back on, we would literally have to reprogram anything that wasn't on battery backup," Douglass told KTEN news.

In the same area, dozens flocked to the Valero at U.S. 82 and U.S. 75 for propane to cook and heat their homes. "The uncertainty is worse than the actual outages," Gary Hawthorn said.

Despite rolling blackouts, a local QuikTrip became one of the few places to grab a bite. "We're having to go to Kroger to get things to make sandwiches," said Larry Robertson. "Whataburger, Taco Bell, everybody down there is closed."

Among southern refineries, Motiva shut down operations in Port Arthur, Texas, including its refinery, which is the largest in the country. Total’s Port Arthur oil refinery was running crude units at minimum rates and shut down its coking unit. Exxon Mobil shut down units at its Beaumont, Texas, refinery; Marathon shut units near Galveston Bay; and Lyondell Asell is operating its Houston refinery at minimum production. Kinder Morgan is having capacity constraints along its gas pipeline system. Enbridge’s crude oil pipeline that runs from its terminal outside Chicago to a Cushing, Oklahoma, oil storage hub was halted because of power outages. 

According to Bloomberg, the severe weather led to a drop in oil production of two million barrels per day. It has also caused some alternative sources of power, such as wind turbines, to freeze, rendering them ineffective. 

Below are inclement weather emergency declarations and HOS waivers that have been issued in the past few days. NACS will continue monitoring for any further waivers, and convenience and fuel retailers can find additional help and support on the NACS Disaster and Emergency Preparedness Page.

Emergency Planning Resources

The NACS Convenience Store Emergency Planning and Job Aids are customizable and include a plan evaluation document and Job Aids listing tasks and checklists for specific functions that store employees perform during emergency and disaster planning and recovery. The Job Aids can also be used as on-boarding training, refresher training or immediate training when emergency conditions approach.