Half of NC gas stations without fuel as Colonial Pipeline returns to 'normal' operations

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Tuesday, May 18, 2021
Many North Carolina gas stations still without fuel
Many North Carolina gas stations still without fuelTravelers along I-95 search for gas in the Sandhills.

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- The state has seen a minor change in the number of gas stations regaining fuel in the last day, according to GasBuddy which is now reporting 51 percent of North Carolina stations are without gas.

North Carolina has hovered somewhere in the upper 50s since Sunday -- an improvement from the past couple of days.

Both Durham and Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools made a return to the classrooms Monday after having to cancel in-person learning due to the shortage Friday.

On Monday, Colonial Pipeline reiterated that the supply chain will take some time to catch up since the pipeline system restart last Wednesday. The company said operations are back to normal.

GAS FINDER: Is there gas near you? Check our map

Experts say the Colonial Pipeline hack didn't cause the shortage. Instead, it was the panic-buying that happened in response.

State officials continue to discourage panic-buying. They say people rushing out to fill up all their vehicles and topping off their tanks despite not really needing it was a major reason for all the gas station outages in the first place.

GasBuddy says data shows "the epicenter of restoration efforts appears to be North Carolina at the present time."

At the peak of outages in the state last week, Gas Buddy reports 74.9 percent of gas stations were without fuel.

Memorial Day

AAA said North Carolina will start to see more relief in the coming days. The organization said gas prices will likely continue to climb heading into Memorial Day weekend.

Currently, prices are trending more than $1 higher than last year.

At $2.93, North Carolina gas price averages are 29 cents more than this time in May 2019, according to AAA.

Current prices are also 30 cents more expensive than a month ago.

Gas prices are expected to stay near $3 per gallon leading up to Memorial Day weekend.

More than 37 million people are expected to travel 50 miles or more between May 27 and May 31. That's a 60% increase from last year, AAA says.

In North Carolina, 1.1 million residents are expected to take a holiday trip. That's up 61% from last year.

Why is North Carolina being hit so hard?

There is no gasoline shortage in the U.S., according to government officials and energy analysts.

However, the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack exposed a critical vulnerability in how both crude oil and refined petroleum makes its way across the country and to gas stations.

EXPLAINER: There's plenty of gas in the U.S. The problem is getting it to NC without the Colonial Pipeline

The Colonial Pipeline cyber attack exposed a critical vulnerability in how both crude oil and refined petroleum makes its way across the country.

Panic-buying taking toll on fuel supply and mental health

Refineries are what turn crude oil into gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, propane and any other number of products. They are spread across the country, but some of the largest are in Houston and New Orleans. That's where the Colonial Pipeline comes in -- transporting that gasoline directly to dozens of giant tanks across the southeast. These tanks or terminals then fill up smaller fuel trucks that haul up to 8,000 gallons of fuel to local stations.

All of the North Carolina terminals are basically running on empty because the pipeline was shut down. Still, the main well has not run dry. There is plenty of gasoline at the refineries but the challenge is how to get it to North Carolina.

In the meantime, trucks, trains and even barges are hauling gasoline. But, at the Wilmington port, there is only room for two barges, and there's a significant wait time there for fuel trucks to fill up. Then there's the added drive time.


The hunt was still on for gas in the Sandhills on Monday, especially along Interstate 95 where travelers have been looking for refuel as they pass through North Carolina.

Gas Buddy still shows dozens of gas stations with little to no fuel in the area.

One Exxon station became a source of relief for locals and travelers like Delaware resident Jay Stevens.

"We stopped more often than we might otherwise have but had no problems. Some stations had one or the other type fuel, but they all had fuel," he said.

But right next door at a Circle K, bags were covering the pumps.

Across the street at BP, there was a fresh supply.

Phurnia Jordan, a Cumberland County resident, said she was never worried but was happy to be filling up after a weekend of errands.

"I've got some doctor appointments I've got to keep this weekend," she said.

The Associated Press contributed.