By Catharin Shepard • Staff writer • Drivers in Raeford saw some relief at the pump Tuesday as more gas stations had fuel to sell, following a week of uncertainty in the wake of a cyberattack on a major pipeline.
While long lines continued at some popular stations, by Tuesday evening others had gas available with no waiting, signaling the start of a return to normal.
The Colonial Pipeline, which provides much of the gasoline for the eastern United States, restarted operations last week after a cyberattack forced a temporary shutdown. However, the few days it was shut down proved disruptive enough to trigger long lines at the gas pumps, with many local gas stations running out of everything but diesel late last week.
According to the gas tracker app GasBuddy, over half of the stations in North Carolina were out of gas as of Monday. That was actually an improvement over the numbers from late last week, when over 70 percent of gas stations had to cover the empty pump handles. Availability continued to improve Tuesday, though some stations were still out of service.
Local gas stations in Hoke County received deliveries of gas off and on over the last week, just slowly. Some stations were only able to offer regular unleaded, with higher tiers of fuel still out of stock. For several days in a row, long lines of cars waiting to gas up quickly formed at stations with fuel to sell.
At one gas station on Prospect Avenue last week, lines wrapped around the side of the road extending far past the parking lot. A sign taped to the pumps told buyers to keep to a $40 limit per person. At other gas stations, employees waited outside and walked among the cars in line to make sure no arguments broke out between worried or upset customers.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency last week due to the pipeline problems. State officials also asked people not to panic and buy more gasoline than they need.
Citizens who see instances of price gouging can report it online through the state Department of Justice website, https://ncdoj.gov.
Most local public safety and service agencies seem to have largely been unaffected by the gas situation.
The dry pumps have not affected the Hoke County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Dr. Hubert Peterkin said Monday. The school system also hasn’t experienced difficulties with providing bus rides for students, Public Relations Director Meredith Bounds said in an email Monday.
“There have been no issues regarding bus transportation related to the pipeline situation. In so far as staff, they were given the option to work remotely on Friday if gas was an issue for anyone getting to or from work,” she wrote.
Raeford Police Chief Marc Godwin said the department has been able to get gas through its normal distributer, but his officers have been “quite busy” helping deal with the situation. They haven’t needed to help stranded motorists who’ve run out of gas, but officers have been helping direct traffic at crowded gas stations to avoid wrecks. They also dealt with one argument at the pumps, Godwin said.
Colonial Pipeline officials said it could take a few days for the delivery supply chain to get back to business as usual, but the system itself is back to normal.
“As we previously reported, Colonial Pipeline initiated the restart of pipeline operations at approximately 5 p.m. ET on Wednesday, May 12. Since that time, we have returned the system to normal operations, delivering millions of gallons per hour to the markets we serve,” Colonial Pipeline said in a tweet on Twitter Saturday.
The pipeline attack came just ahead of the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, traditionally an unofficial start to summer that sees heavy traffic from travelers taking to the roadways.
Drivers looking for fuel can check the GasBuddy website, https://www.gasbuddy.com.