TAMPA, Fla. — As the Gulf Coast prepares for the imminent landfall of Tropical Storm Idalia, Florida officials are cautioning drivers about possible fuel contamination at numerous gas stations in the area.

The National Hurricane Center reported on Monday that Idalia, currently situated near the coast of Cuba, has the potential to make landfall as a hurricane in the southern United States later this week.

Late Sunday, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services issued a statement informing the public that gasoline purchased after 10 a.m. on Saturday at certain Citgo-supplied stations may be contaminated with diesel fuel. A total of 29 affected stations, which include popular chains like 7-Eleven and BJ's Wholesale, have been identified in cities such as Tampa, Fort Myers, Sarasota, and more.

The contamination was attributed to "human error," according to the department. Citgo, headquartered in Houston, acknowledged a product routing problem at its Tampa terminal in a statement released on Sunday.

All locations that may have received the contaminated fuel have been notified by Citgo and instructed to cease sales. The company is actively working to remove the contaminated fuel from these locations.

State officials have emphasized that using the contaminated fuel can lead to engine damage or malfunction in vehicles. With many residents potentially evacuating in preparation for Idalia, this concern becomes even more significant.

The Port of Tampa Contamination and Hurricane Idalia

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis expressed concern about the contamination at the Port of Tampa during a Sunday news conference. He warned consumers not to drive their cars if they had filled up at any of the affected gas stations, as they could potentially get stranded on the side of the road.

Forecasters predict that Idalia will intensify into a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico by Tuesday and then move northeast towards Florida's Gulf Coast. The National Weather Service warns that Idalia may bring winds exceeding 111 mph, making it a Category 3 hurricane, as it approaches Florida on Tuesday and Wednesday.

In addition to flood and power outage warnings, Florida emergency officials also advised residents to keep their gas tanks at least half-full in case of evacuation. Having enough fuel will enable them to travel several miles inland to a secure location if necessary.

If consumers suspect that they have purchased contaminated gas from any of the impacted stations, they are urged to file a complaint with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Alternatively, they can seek assistance through Citgo's Good Gas Guarantee program.

To address the issue, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has instructed affected stations to cease selling gas until the contaminated fuel is replaced and tanks are cleaned. Once these stations have undergone the necessary corrective action or received clearance, the fuel will once again be safe for purchase.

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