As Asheville residents learned a few years back
, as a geographically isolated city we have a very tenuous supply of fuel. When hurricanes Gustav and Ike plowed through the southern coast, it shut down fuel deliveries to a bare trickle. And what's worse, most of the fuel trucks heading our way were emptied long before they got near us, and the high mountain pa**** cost so much more in transportation fuel costs that many shippers opted to save fuel and reserve their deliveries for the flatlands.
Within days, Asheville was nearly out of gas. Stations were closing left and right, people were waiting in gas lines for hours on end and businesses suffered from massive manpower shortages as employees ran out of fuel to come to work. Our city government even cut back on days to conserve fuel and prevent workers from getting stranded. People couldn't get to work and school, they couldn't get to medical care or pick up prescriptions and they couldn't buy groceries or other large-purchase items that required transportation. The few fuel trucks that made it through were stalked to their stations and stations ran out almost as soon as they refueled from people rushing in to buy gas.
It didn't take long for the criminal element to raise its ugly head, either. Almost immediately you had people siphoning gas from their neighbors or from commercial and government fleets. And on the other end of things, you had station owners who were using the shortage to gouge already desperate people by charging well more than it cost them to purchase gas.
Ushahidi would have been a godsend during the shortage for locating stations that were open, identifying and avoiding gougers, theives and profiteers, following news about deliveries and pipeline recovery and for organizing carpools and emergency transportation for those in need.
I really look forward to seeing how this incredible technology grows in the future. Maybe next time we face another gas shortage here in Asheville, we'll be better equipped to deal with it by using this powerful tool.