GREENSBORO, N.C. — Gas station owners and drivers felt the first effects of the Colonial Pipeline shutdown on Monday. The flow of fuel stopped after a cyberattack on the company’s operation last week.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency to suspended fuel regulations over the shut down as gas ran out at local stations.
“I can’t believe that we’re here and can’t even get gas,” said Vickie Phillips, who stopped in to find empty gas pumps at the Pop Shoppe on Stanley Road in Greensboro. “People are tired of sitting in the house and they just want to get out and try to resume something of normality with their life and they’re definitely going to need fuel and gas to do that.”
The Pop Shoppe employees placed white bags over gas nozzles and turned the pumps off around noon on Monday. The General Manager of the Pop Shoppe Michelle Hutchens told FOX8 they’re not sure when the next shipment of fuel will arrive.
“Gas is a big purchase here,” Hutchens said. “It bring people inside, it keeps employees employed.”
The store normally receives multiple shipments of fuel each week from the Colonial Pipeline but has yet to receive one since early last week.
According to Colonial Pipeline officials, it’s the largest pipeline in the U.S. and shipped 40 million gallons of fuel from Texas to New Jersey every day until the shutdown on Friday.
“On a good week we stayed full when the pipelines are up and running,” Hutchens said. “We stayed full. We never hardly came down under 4,000 gallons.”
On Monday, the FBI confirmed a hacker group known as DarkSide targeted the pipeline with ransomware, a form of cyberextortion.
“This pipeline is critical to the delivery of gasoline supply to the entire southeast,” said Patrick De Haan, the head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy. “It ships millions of gallons of gas every day and without it, there’s not a whole lot of alternatives.”
The Colonial Pipeline runs through Greensboro where there is a field of storage tanks holding the remaining supply of fuel left until the pipeline restarts. Over the past four days the supply has shrunk.
“These networks are very sensitive to outages that last more than a few days,” De Haan said.
Stress on people who work or travel continues to grow while officials slowly bring the pipeline online in sections.
“If you don’t have the main component then you kind of worry about if they’re really going to need me to work,” said Amber Lauing, an employee at the Pop Shoppe.
Hutchens told FOX8 she’s seen the impact from the pipeline shutdown already at her store.
“Seeing people last week when we didn’t have gas needing to get places like work or to their parents and nursing homes, doctors appointments,” she said. “We had a woman in labor, she needed gas and couldn’t get and had to go somewhere else to find it.”
De Haan estimates drivers will have to pay an extra 10 to 25 cents per gallon to fill up their gas tanks until the supply levels out. He recommends conserving fuel to help this situation.
“This could be a much worse situation if everyone fills their tanks,” De Haan said. “That’s basically going to completely run out gasoline supply immediately, so if you don’t have to absolutely drive you should not be driving.”
“Hopefully this will get back on track because we need our fuel,” said Phillips while she left the Pop Shoppe. “We need our gas.”