ROANOKE, Va. – Gas stations across our region saw long lines and some even experienced temporary outages as people flocked to the pump Tuesday. This comes following a disruption to one of the East Coast’s largest fuel pipelines due to a cyber attack.
A quick trip to the pump was not the experience most people had Tuesday trying to get gas. Paul Divers of Roanoke was one of nearly a hundred sitting in line for fuel at the local Sam’s Club.
“I’m on half a tank right now but everyone’s trying to fill up so I’m trying to get some gas before the prices go way up,” Divers said.
Mid-Tuesday fears of a perceived gas shortage took off sending people to the pump whether they needed gas or not. Many were confused and frustrated. Divers said it reminded him of when gas was $4 a gallon.
“That was back in like 2012, that was the last time I sat in a line like this,” Diver said.
The Colonial Pipeline provides nearly half the fuel for the East Coast and was the victim of a cyberattack a few days ago. It shut down operations as a precaution and began trucking fuel to make up for the service interruption. The company said it’s working around the clock to restore the fuel delivery system to full service and some pieces of the line have already returned to full service.
But news of the shutdown fueled the panic. Andy Gill is the fuel manager for his family’s chain of Virginia-based gas stations, GB, and said those stations that don’t already have fuel supply agreements in place are hurting the most. His company has those agreements and is still experiencing issues in some cases.
“I do expect supply to be very tight, we’re having major issues getting gas,” Gill said. “We’re going to dry up some of these stations for no reason, and now the truckers and the suppliers have to work harder to get those replenished and people are just buying more than needed, I think.”
That’s exactly what happened at some stations across our region as they ran out of gas, the majority just for a few hours. The demand is higher than the supply and Gill said that will have a domino effect.
“What the biggest issue we immediately have is, is that people are panicking for literally no reason,” Gill said. “It’s going to cause a spike at certain stations where they’re able to provide fuel, and another thing is, in our case, we don’t care what the cost is, we basically ask our supplier name your price we want it.”
The GB trucks are ready to drive to Pennsylvania to get fuel if needed and Gill said he has redundancies in place for a situation like this.
For customers, patience will be the name of the game for the next few days, although Divers was happy to top off.
“I hope it’s going to be worth it. I haven’t been here too long so thankfully the lines have been moving pretty quickly, but as long as everyone doesn’t panic that’s the most important part,” Divers said.
Governor Ralph Northam issued a state of emergency Tuesday and said Virginia has enough reserves to handle the need for the short-term. The deceleration, working in conjunction with action at the federal level, loosens some restrictions and waives certain regulations to keep gas flowing.