Gas Shortages Fade a Bit, but Thousands of Pumps Are Still Dry

·4 min read
Photo credit: Autoweek
Photo credit: Autoweek
  • Gas shortages at stations ease in some states, but supply remains scarce at some stations in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.

  • Gas prices rose in several affected states, by about 10 to 20 cents a gallon on average.

  • Retail supply of gasoline could remain tight in affected areas ahead of a busy Memorial Day weekend.

The gasoline shortages that affected much of the eastern seaboard over the past week are dissipating in some areas faster than in others, after high percentages of gas stations in several states in the southeast had run out of fuel. The shortages in several states were sparked by a ransomware attack that halted the Colonial Pipeline that stretches from Houston, Texas, up to New Jersey, providing the eastern seaboard with about half of its fuel supplies, and prompted panic purchases of gasoline that put stress on local deliveries to stations by tanker trucks.

The Colonial Pipeline has now resumed operations, but lingering effects from the shortages at the retail level are expected to persist for a few more days in certain areas ahead of the busy Memorial Day week travel.

"Colonial Pipeline has continued to make substantial progress in safely restarting our pipeline system," the company said on the afternoon of Thursday, May 13. "We can now report that we have restarted our entire pipeline system and that product delivery has commenced to all markets we serve."

"Following this restart, it will take several days for the product delivery supply chain to return to normal," the pipeline operator added. "Some markets served by Colonial Pipeline may experience, or continue to experience, intermittent service interruptions during this 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."

On Sunday evening, May 16, shortages appeared especially acute in some areas of Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and southern Maryland. The area around D.C. including Maryland and Virginia appeared to be among the most affected by shortages at gas stations on Sunday. Travel during the upcoming Memorial Day weekend is expected to bring a spike in demand in these areas once again.

"We were planning to drive from D.C. up to central Pennsylvania for the weekend, but we ended up not making the trip since we heard that stations in northern Maryland were out of gas," one couple from the Maryland suburbs of Washington D.C. told Autoweek. "We just decided not to risk it this year with everything going on."

Prices grew in the affected states by about 10 to 20 cents a gallon in the course of last week, GasBuddy petroleum analyst Patrick De Haan noted on Twitter, with the biggest state average gains occurring in Tennessee and North Carolina. Some individual stations had seen much more drastic hikes, of course.

"Seems to have gotten better around here, and by that I mean I don't see crazy lines anymore," a driver from the Atlanta area told Autoweek. "But I had enough gas in the car and didn't really go anywhere during the past week cause I saw lines last weekend. At least people aren't hoarding it, it seems."

It remains to be seen whether the retail station operations in the affected areas will be able to return to April levels of supply and pricing ahead of the Memorial Day weekend, as wholesale operations return to normal, but with a significant travel week at the end of May the east coast states could continue to see fuel supplies run low and prices remain higher.

If you live on the east coast, have you noticed gas prices rise over the past week in your area? Let us know in the comments below.