Colonial Pipeline restarting operations, will take 'several days' for a return to normal

Josh Chapin Image
Thursday, May 13, 2021
Gas shortage continues to be a problem in North Carolina
Gas shortage continues to be a problem in North CarolinaFinding gas remains a problem in North Carolina, but relief is on the way.

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Colonial Pipeline announced Wednesday afternoon that it has begun the process of restarting operations.

The pipeline company said this is the first step in the restart process and it will take "several days" for a return to normal operations.

"Some markets served by Colonial Pipeline may experience, or continue to experience, intermittent service interruptions during the start-up period. Colonial will move as much gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel as is safely possible and will continue to do so until markets return to normal," the company wrote in a statement.

Still, it's good news. As of 6 p.m., 70 percent of gas stations in North Carolina were out of fuel, according to Gas Buddy.

That comes days after Gov. Roy Cooper preemptively declared a state of emergency, lifting some fuel regulations to help ensure there is enough fuel supply available throughout the state.

Across the state gas stations with fuel are seeing long lines form as people panic to fill up and top off their vehicles -- exactly what state leaders say we all need to avoid doing.

That panic buying makes the situation worse--just as it did with toilet paper and cleaning supplies at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic or like it does with bread and milk ahead of storms.

During a news conference on Wednesday, Cooper again urged North Carolinians only to buy when you need gas.

"The shortages we're seeing is pretty much related to panic buying from people," he said. "I want to encourage people not to do that."

Before this week, the fuel distribution infrastructure in North Carolina was already strained due to a shortage of authorized hazardous materials drivers. However, that driver shortage isn't the main reason for gas stations running out of gas right now.

After the cyberattack on Colonial Pipeline, which runs from Texas to New Jersey and supplies at least 70 percent of the fuel to the Southeast, restricted allocations were placed on fuel distributors in North Carolina. That means they were not allowed to load and transport as much fuel as they had in previous weeks.

American Airlines said it is going to have to start "tankering" fuel.

The means planes will load up on fuel in airports in states without supply issues and then fly to Charlotte with enough fuel to either not require a fill-up in Charlotte or require minimal fuel to continue on to the next destination.

A Shell gas station on South Saunders Street in Raleigh was one of the few places to actually have gas on Wednesday but eventually ran out.

Some drivers said they waited as long as 45 minutes to fill up.

In Durham, some drivers pleaded with their neighbors to save the gas for people who really need it.

"It ends up costing businesses money," said Travis McKee. "People freaking out like it's an apocalypse. That costs money. We don't need people filling up a 55-gallon drum to fill their tanks."

Attorney General Josh Stein's office said on Wednesday that there have been 392 calls to the price gouging hot line since Cooper declared the state of emergency earlier this week.