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Panic buying after pipeline hack leads to long lines, little fuel at Triangle gas stations

Numerous gas stations in the Triangle struggled Tuesday to keep the pumps open following a cyberattack on a major interstate fuel pipeline.

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Joe Fisher
Nia Harden, WRAL reporters
RALEIGH, N.C. — Numerous gas stations in the Triangle struggled Tuesday to keep the pumps open following a cyberattack on a major interstate fuel pipeline.
As of 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday, nearly 60 percent of all Raleigh gas stations were out of fuel, according to GasBuddy.com.

As people lined up to fill up at stations across the region, Gov. Roy Cooper's state of emergency declaration put North Carolina's price gouging law into effect to keep a lid on rising gas prices.

"Report price gouging, and please don't rush to top off your tanks," Cooper said in a statement.

People can report exorbitant spikes in gas prices by calling the state Attorney General's Office at 877-5 NO SCAM.

The Colonial Pipeline, which delivers about 45 percent of the fuel consumed on the East Coast – and almost all of the fuel in eastern North Carolina – had to halt operations last week after a ransomware attack that affected some of its systems.

The White House was monitoring supply shortages in parts of the Southeast, and President Joe Biden directed federal agencies to bring their resources to bear.

"I have talked today with federal officials, including Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, and we have a full-court press to get the Colonial Pipeline back up and fully operating quickly," Cooper said.

The state of emergency also suspended motor vehicle fuel regulations to guarantee North Carolina has an adequate fuel supply.

While North and South Carolina, along with Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia, are expected to be most impacted by the pipeline shutdown, significant fuel supply shortages aren't expected, the governor said. Energy Department officials likewise urged people not to panic buy gasoline.

The pleas by Cooper and federal officials were ignored, however, as drivers rushed out across the Triangle to fill their tanks.

“I filled up once today. I came back with my other car," Norman Primous said. “Once I get it in there, I ain’t going nowhere unless I have to.”

In Raleigh, some drivers waited 30 minutes to fill up at the Costco on Wake Forest Road. In Morrisville, cars stretched through a Sheetz parking lot into the street. A station in Clayton limited customers to 15 gallons per purchase.
"This is the fourth gas station," Natalia Markova said of her search for gas, which also affected her ability to get a coronavirus vaccine shot. "We have second dose vaccine today, and we are in a rush, and we couldn’t get to the CVS pharmacy, unfortunately."

“I am going to try to keep it over half [a tank] just in case this all disappears," Quenton Cobb said. "I am going to make sure I have enough to get back and forth."

Local delivery drivers said they were worried about having enough gas to complete their routes.

"It's very frustrating. For one, I didn't know this was coming, so my mom called and told me and I immediately started panicking, even though they tell you not to panic. We need gas for Uber Eats and Door Dash," said Stephanie Dixon, who lives in Knightdale, but delivers food in the Raleigh area.

The lines led some stations to run out of gas. The online site GasBuddy.com reported that close to one-third of the gas stations in the Triangle reported being out of fuel Tuesday evening.

WRAL's Fuel Tracker showed many stations in Raleigh and Durham with limited or no gas supply.

Colonial officials said Monday that they expect to have services mostly restored by the end of the week.

Until then, fuel deliveries continue at most stations, with gas coming in from out of the area. For example, some stations that usually get fuel from the Colonial Pipeline tap in Selma were getting it from suppliers in Wilmington.

“As long as people don’t panic and freak out about it, it’ll be good," said Kellie Wright, of Raleigh.

AAA reported the average gas price in North Carolina shot up 5 cents between Monday and Tuesday and 12 cents from a week ago. The organization advised drivers to complete their errands in one trip, avoid rush-hour traffic and limit the use of air conditioning to conserve gas.

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