Local News

Both Major Gas Pipelines Restart

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RALEIGH, N.C. — There may soon be relief in sight for motorists across North Carolina.

Colonial Pipeline announced that it has restarted its pipeline. Roughly 90 percent of North Carolina gasoline comes from the Colonial pipeline that begins in Texas and the Plantation pipeline in Louisiana, traveling through other hard-hit areas in Mississippi and Alabama.

Initial service restoration will provide between 25 percent and 35 percent of Colonial's normal operating capacity. Both gasoline and distillate service is included in this system restart. Company officials said its first priority through all of the restart activities is the protection of public safety and the environment.

Currently, both pipelines -- Colonial and Plantation -- are operating at a limited capacity, supplying between 25 and 35 percent their normal output, Governor Mike Easley said.

The governor has the power to issue gasoline restrictions, including requiring the rationing of gas by consumers if supplies remain stalled. Easley would not predict what might be needed.

Meanwhile, gas prices rose to more than $3 a gallon across North Carolina on Thursday as some filling stations reported gas shortages or shut down completely because of disrupted supplies caused by Hurricane Katrina.

In Raleigh, Gina Jones, a service writer, said the Eastgate Shell Station on Wake Forest Road has 9,000 gallons of gas that may have to last until the end of the week. Usually, the gas station has 12,000 gallons a day. It is not known when trucks will be able to provide more gas.

Right now, "Mom and Pop" gas stations are the ones that appear to be the most-affected with gas supply. Some gas stations in Duplin County are out of gas, forcing motorists to look elsewhere.

In Charlotte, yellow caution tape stretched around filling stations and bags hung over gas station pumps that first shut down Wednesday night.

Although police reported before daybreak that only 30 of Mecklenburg County's 230 fueling stations were shut down, that number appeared to grow Thursday morning as drivers continued to crowd the open stations, fearing a shortage. On some busy streets, drivers waiting in line for gas caused traffic backups.

At one of the few stations open Wednesday night, Steve Clifford, 48, put gas into his Isuzu sport utility vehicle.

"I heard it was going to go up to $4 a gallon tomorrow and there were going to be shortages, so when I got home from work I kissed my wife goodbye and said I was going out to find gas," Clifford said.

Charles Richardson, assistant manager of the Gate station, said his was one of the few stations in the city that had received gas since Hurricane Katrina blew through New Orleans.

Some stations also closed in the Triangle area Wednesday, although one in Raleigh that posted "Sold Out" signs on its pumps about 7 p.m. received a new shipment before 9 p.m. In the Wilmington area, some closed and others were selling only premium grades of gasoline or diesel.

Of the nearly 100 gas stations in Buncombe County, more than 20 had run dry as of Wednesday afternoon, officials said, with more expected to follow soon. Others boosted prices to $4 a gallon and beyond.