Pump and cover: Petrol purveyors stay the course

Northern Virginian gas stations have been on high alert since sniper attacks there and in other D.C. suburbs began two weeks ago, but it wasn't until two shootings in Spotsylvania County that Charlottesvillians started to get nervous. The question on everyone's mind: could it happen here?

Police officers have intensified their presence all along Route 29, seemingly at every access road and gas station from here to Manassas and beyond.

Here in Charlottesville, bypass-less, the main north-south highway runs though the heart of town, sliced up by stop-lighted intersections that don't allow much room for a perfect getaway. Still, the sniper's favorite targets, gas stations and Michaels crafts stores, are uncomfortably close to Route 29.

Mike Jones, manager of Charlottesville Oil, a chain of fuel stations, says the company has no plans to beef up security. As for changing over to full service to appease jittery customers, he doesn't think employees "would like it too much, to put themselves at risk."

Habib Rasool, manager of Holiday Exxon on Emmet Street, dismisses the risk. "It has not been around here," he says simply.

County police spokesperson Lee Catlin is similarly serene. "Our police officers are staying in close communication with their counterparts in northern Virginia," she says. "In terms of actually putting up roadblocks or stopping vehicles, we have not done that yet."

It all comes down to proximity. "At this point, we haven't seen it moving out of northern Virginia toward us," Catlin says. But she notes, "It's a changing situation."

Meanwhile, customers still line up to gas and go. For now, at least, it's business as usual for Charlottesville motorists.