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Gas outages hitting Southeast are getting worse amid panic buying

A couple fills up multiple 5 gallon gas tanks at a Wawa gas station, after a cyberattack crippled the biggest fuel pipeline in the country, run by Colonial Pipeline, in Tampa, Florida, U.S., May 12, 2021.

Octavio Jones | Reuters

Gas shortages across the Southeastern U.S. are getting worse as panicked consumers head to the pump.

The shortages are most acute in North Carolina, where 65% of stations are out of fuel, according to data from GasBuddy. In South Carolina and Georgia 43% of stations are dry. Across Virginia 44% of stations are without fuel.

Officials have tried to stem the panic buying, noting that the Colonial Pipeline has said it plans to restore operations by the end of the week.

The pipeline is a vital link between the Gulf Coast refiners and the Eastern Seaboard, spanning more than 5,000 miles and transporting nearly half of the East Coast’s fuel. Colonial Pipeline took its entire system down on Friday after it fell victim to a ransomware attack. Much of the system remains offline.

The company is expected to provide an update on whether it can restart operations by the end of the day on Wednesday. However, once activity is restored, it will likely take at least a few days for operations to return to normal. This is the first time the entire pipeline has been shut down.

The national average for a gallon of gas topped $3 on Wednesday for the first time in nearly seven years. The uptick in prices is more acute in states including Georgia and Virginia, where fuel is running short.

The Colonial Pipeline is crucial to the country’s energy business, but experts are quick to note that should it remain closed for a longer period of time there are alternatives.

Fuel could be shipped in by rail or truck. It could also be imported from Europe. Additionally, the Jones Act could be waived as a way to ease delivery concerns. Officials said Tuesday that there have been no calls to waive the act, which requires goods transported between U.S. ports to be on U.S.-flagged ships.

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