The woman behind #atlgas

The person who gave the most help to Atlantans struggling to find gas in recent weeks wasn’t a governor, a mayor, or even a reporter.

Tessa Horehled is a marketing consultant and author of the popular local culture blog Drive A Faster Car.

While tracking down gas for her mother two weeks ago, Horehled used her mobile phone to post the location of stations that did (and didn’t) have gas to her micro-blog hosted on Twitter.com.

“I was trying to help people not run out of gas while they were driving around looking for it,” she says.

Horehled included the characters #atlgas in her gas-related posts, and asked people who follow her on Twitter who spotted gas to do the same. The characters, called hashmarks, allow anyone with a computer or a mobile phone to view an up-to-the minute list of metro Atlanta gas sightings.

By the weekend, #atlgas went viral. Horehled’s online friends began posting to #atlgas, followed by their friends, etc. By Monday morning, gas-starved, web-enabled Atlantans turned #atlgas into the fourth most commonly searched phrase on Twitter.

“We beat ‘Sarah Palin’ at one point,” she says. “I consider that a success.”

Though proud her simple idea has proven so popular and so useful to so many people, she’s disappointed that neither city nor state officials have harnessed Twitter to either gather or spread information about gas availability to the community.

“It’s free and you can use it with almost any cell phone,” she says, adding that she’d be happy to give the Mayor and the Governor a quick tutorial.