CHARLOTTE, N.C. — If you've stopped for gas in the past 48 hours, you likely noticed higher than normal prices. You might have even seen limits on how much you can get, or worse, no gas at all.
The Colonial Pipeline, which is responsible for nearly half of the East Coast's fuel supply, remains mostly shut down after a cyberattack in recent days. Experts believe this could lead to some serious problems if the pipeline isn't back up and running in the next couple of days.
Once word of a potential shortage took off, gas stations saw long lines with some stores running out entirely. Others saw prices skyrocket above $3 a gallon Monday night. By Tuesday afternoon, gas stations across the Charlotte area began running out of fuel.
According to Patrick De Haan, an analyst for Gas Buddy, 71% of Charlotte metro stations are without gasoline (as of 9 a.m. May 12). De Haan tweeted Wednesday that he'd only seen "slight" outages at the supply level, indicating there was more of a problem getting fuel to stations.
As of 3 p.m. Wednesday, May 12, 65% of stations in North Carolina are without gasoline.
"It’s terrible," said Wendy James, who was driving from Winston-Salem back to South Carolina Tuesday. "I’m worried about it. I know the prices are getting ready to going through the roof."
A spokesperson for AAA of the Carolinas cautioned against panicking and filling up your gas tank unnecessarily.
"We are our own worst enemy," Tiffany Wright said. "When it comes to these things, we talk about the bread and the milk and people going out during the pandemic, it was the toilet paper. It’s a knee-jerk reaction we go and we panic and we overconsume."
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper issued a state of emergency, lifting some restrictions to ensure adequate fuel supplies are delivered across the state.
By Tuesday afternoon, stores in York County began running out, including a BP off I-85.
The QT in Fort Mill was backed up nearly to Gold Hill Road Tuesday as customers lined up to fill their tanks.
Two Shell stores in Fort Mill, including a Circle K at Baxter Village, had bags over the pumps after running out of fuel.
The cashier at the Shell on South Tryon Street said they ran out of gas Tuesday morning and don't expect to get another shipment until Friday at the earliest.
WCNC Charlotte also spoke to the owner at the 76 on South Tryon Street who says he started getting busy last night and since then it's been non-stop. So far he still has gas and hopes to help drivers who need to fill up as long as he can.
“It’s more important for the people going to work they need their gas," store owner Sanziv Dull said. "It’s like helping people too.”
Prices are rising as a result of the shutdown, but gas prices in North Carolina and South Carolina remain below the national average. According to GasBuddy, the average price for a gallon of gas in Charlotte is $2.85, while the national average is coming in at $2.97.
Wright said the Carolinas are being hit especially hard because the mountains and the beaches are prime vacation destinations this time of year.
"You have an influx of traffic, you have more motorists on the road, you have a higher demand, add to that you have people overconsuming at the pump and you have the perfect storm for prices to go higher," Wright said.
Some people say they'll pay more if they must.
"If we've got to have it, then I'll spend the extra few bucks," one woman who lives in South Carolina told WCNC Charlotte. "That's the way it is, gotta have it."
The shutdown is also affecting flights out of Charlotte. American Airlines said direct flights to London and Honolulu will now make stops to get additional fuel. The flight from Charlotte (CLT) to Honolulu (HNL) will connect in Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) to change aircraft, and the flight from Charlotte to London (LHR) will stop in Boston (BOS) to receive additional fuel.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Emergency Management Office is working to identify how the pipeline hack is impacting Mecklenburg County. Officials are urging people to "remain patient and avoid buying unnecessary fuel supplies" during this time.
The City of Charlotte maintains its own fuel reserve and has enough fuel supply at this time, but is preparing for a prolonged interruption to be safe, according to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Emergency Management Office. As a result of this, City of Charlotte staff is being asked to limit non-essential travel as a precaution.
If you see price gouging on fuel in North Carolina, you can report that to the North Carolina Attorney General's Office. To file a complaint, call 1-877-5-NOSCAM or go to https://ncdoj.gov/file-a-complaint/price-gouging/.
The Biden-Harris administration has announced a "comprehensive federal response focused on securing critical energy supply chains." According to a White House press release, Biden has directed agencies across the federal government to bring resources to help alleviate any shortages.
WCNC Charlotte is seeking solutions by finding a resource for residents who don't want to drive all around town, trying to find which stations have gas and which don't. If you absolutely need to get gas, try using this Gas Buddy Tracker to find out where the shortages are. Just search for your zip code and it will list which stations have fuel.
If you spot a fuel line or a gas station running short of fuel, snap a photo and send it to WCNC Charlotte. You can upload the image to our newsroom using the Near Me function on the WCNC Charlotte mobile app, or by texting 704-329-3600.
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