Gasoline is freely flowing again through the Colonial Pipeline, but some gas station pumps along the East Coast remain empty.
According to GasBuddy.com, the biggest shortages are in Georgia, the Carolinas, and Washington, D.C. with 83 percent of stations in the nation’s capital still without gas.
The Colonial Pipeline is responsible for supplying 45 percent of the East Coast’s fuel. A cyber attack by hackers who lock up computer systems and demand a ransom hit the company on May 7. The hackers didn’t take control of pipeline operations, but the Georgia-based company shut it down to prevent malware from affecting industrial control systems.
Multiple sources confirmed to The Associated Press that Colonial Pipeline had paid the cybercriminals a ransom of nearly $5 million in cryptocurrency in order to obtain the software decryption key required to unscramble their data network.
But the ongoing gas shortages are more about panic buying than about the temporary pipeline closure.
“This is not the result of the Colonial Pipeline being shut down, rather, due to the pipeline and how that fed fear that there wouldn’t be enough gasoline. Americans started to hoard and panic,” said Patrick de Haan, head of petroleum analysis for Gasbuddy.com
The surge in demand is also boosting prices, the American Automobile Association (AAA) reports the national average for a gallon of gas is up to just over $3.00 now.
Even though millions of gallons of gasoline are flowing and shortages easing, there are still dry spots. ABC News reported one woman was stranded for days in Washington, D.C.
Some stations were still out of gas in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Saturday. Driver Jermaine Barnes told CBS17 the shortage has made him more conservative with his trips.
“I’m not going places I don’t need to go,” he said. “I’m not visiting people. I’m watching where I’m driving. I’m doing everything different right now.”
Some drivers responded angrily on Facebook Saturday to a post by ABC-13 in Asheville, North Carolina, about the pipeline resuming normal operations. Several said the majority of gas stations still did not have fuel and those that did receive deliveries were quickly selling out.
Martha Meade, manager for public and government relations at AAA Mid-Atlantic, said many gas stations in the Virginia area still did not have gas on Saturday. But she said “lines have diminished from the height of the crisis” and “panic buying has subsided.”
Colonial says it could take up to two weeks for some areas to get back to normal. In the meantime, if you don’t need gas, experts advise you to refrain from topping off your tank.