Curfew in place; officials keep eye on gas stations

As tempers flared in long wait lines for gas, law enforcement officers are staffing gas stations throughout Putnam County, as well as continuing to enforce a countywide curfew.

Putnam County Sheriff’s Office Col. Joe Wells said deputies are dispatched to monitor stations as fuel trucks bring gas and long lines form by those looking to fill vehicles and gas canisters for generators.

“We have reports of tempers flaring, but haven’t had anything major occur at gas stations,” Wells said.

Wells said staffing at stations began about midday Tuesday as fuel trucks began replenishing depleted stations.

“We have a whole squad of deputies who are helping maintain security as they see tankers arrive,” Wells said.

Palatka Police Department Capt. Matt Newcomb said officers are also manning gas stations.

“Officers are providing security and traffic control,” Newcomb said. “We received calls about people parking and running across the street to a gas station to fill five gallon canisters, skipping those waiting in line.”

Newcomb said there is a tremendous amount of generator use as many residents are still without power.

“I know several stores sold out of generators prior to (Hurricane Irma),” Newcomb said.

The additional use of generators has created a higher need for gas and left many scrambling to find fuel.

Newcomb said officers are helping with traffic control by creating entrance and exit lines as wait times for gas last an hour or longer.

“Remain calm,” Newcomb advised those seeking gas. “Be patient and don’t jump others in line.”

A countywide curfew remained in effect 8 p.m. Wednesday to 8 a.m. Thursday. There is no scheduled stop date for the curfew; officials are meeting daily to decide whether to continue it.

Wells said the curfew is not for motorists with valid reasons, such as filling gas tanks, retrieving food or going to work.

“We are trying to prohibit sightseers and deter crime,” Wells said. “We need to keep roads open for electric crews working, and we still have a lot of roads that are washed out.”

Wells said violation of the curfew is considered a second-degree misdemeanor.

“Deputies have used discretion, and we have made stops,” Wells said. “So far, there have been no arrests.”

Wells said special attention is given to areas without power.

Also, officials remind motorists to treat intersections with non-working traffic lights as four-way stops.