Gas “panic” has seemingly taken hold in parts of North Carolina, with lines reported at gas stations as motorists are jittery over news a major pipeline is temporarily shut down.
The “panic buying” seems at its worst in the North Carolina mountains, where TV stations are reporting long lines at pumps and rising prices in the wake of a cyberattack against Colonial Pipeline that resulted in the shutdown of all its pipeline operations.
The surge at the pumps comes after Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency Monday that suspended “motor vehicle fuel regulations to ensure adequate fuel supply supplies throughout the state.”
There are also anecdotal reports of stations running out of gas in Greensboro, Asheville, Weaverville and Robbinsville. Meanwhile, gas is “harder to find” in larger cities like Charlotte, reported station WCNC.
“What’s going on with the gas/gas stations? Everyone’s out and lines are wild,” Elizabeth Kelley asked on a Facebook group for the Asheville area.
“I sat in traffic for 30 minutes just from the lines (and I wasn’t even getting gas),” Elizabeth Kelley wrote.
“I just drove by 8 stations. All out of gas. Good luck,” Stephen Silver posted.
GasBuddy.com announced Monday that it launched a “fuel availability tracker” to help people find gas.
AAA warned the region will likely see higher prices at the pumps, but experts have stopped short of predicting gas shortages due to the temporary shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline. .
Colonial Pipeline’s 5,500-mile system runs from Texas to New Jersey, providing about 45% of “all fuel consumed on the East Coast,” according to the company.
Many are arguing on social media that “drivers are feeling the effects of a manufactured panic” — with some blaming media reports for the flood of anxious motorists — as the mere possibility of a shortage is driving people to the pumps. Some are likening it to the toilet paper panic that gripped the nation during COVID-19 pandemic.
Tiffany Wright, spokeswoman for AAA Carolinas, told the Asheville Citizen-Times “any current shortages are driven by people rushing to buy gas” — and not the cyberattack itself.
“It’s still early, but what I will say is that we do have ample supply even though the Colonial Pipeline is responsible for 45% of the fuel going to the East Coast,” she told the newspaper.
Still, many drivers in North Carolina said they’d rather be safe than sorry when it comes to filling up their tanks.
“Oh heck yeah, I’m not taking any chances!” Courtney Wynn wrote on Facebook.
“What’s truly strange is that people are surprised that other people went and got gas…in the same state where people buy out ever single food item they can when there’s a half an inch of snow on the ground,” Dredre Ballard posted on Facebook. “If you’ve lived here longer than a day….you shouldn’t really be surprised.”