State of emergency in Florida, Joe, Virginia and North Carolina Thousands of gas stations in the U.S. Southeast run dry

A ransomware attack by cyber hackers caused the Colonie Pipeline in the southeastern U.S. to be completely shut down from Friday (May 7) through Monday (10). The 5,500-mile pipeline is back in operation, but service will not be fully restored until the end of the week.

Fears of a looming shortage have sparked panic buying, with gas stations running out of fuel. Some gas stations in Atlanta and other cities have run dry, and more than 1,000 stations in the Southeast are now out of fuel, according to S&P’s Oil Price Information Service.

The U.S. Southeast is particularly vulnerable, with fewer refineries and fewer pipelines to deliver fuel, compared to the Northeast, which is less at risk. The Southeast also doesn’t have as much equipment to quickly import large amounts of gasoline from other countries, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The shortage is worst in North Carolina, where 9.7 percent of gas stations are without fuel, according to the Gas Buddy Tracker, a gas price tracker. Virginia was the second hardest hit, with 7.9 percent of gas stations without fuel, followed by the Joe State with 6.5 percent and South Carolina with 4.3 percent.

The average price of U.S. retail gasoline was $2.985 on Tuesday, a seven-year high, with the last time the average price exceeded $2.99 in November 2014.

Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, Virginia Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam and Joe Republican Gov. Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency in their respective states on Tuesday (May 11). Their actions came the day after North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (R) took the same steps.

Declaring a state of emergency gives local officials more leeway to deal with the crisis and increases the flexibility and funding available to state and local governments to ensure they have adequate fuel supplies.

Gov. Joe Camp’s state of emergency measure is to waive sales tax on gasoline until May 15, a move critics say could prompt more people to try to fill up at the pump.

Texas’ Gov. DeSantis, in an executive order Tuesday night, said Florida’s gasoline supply has been largely unaffected by the disruption, but a bout of panic buying that began Monday, especially in north Florida, has caused local shortages. The executive order lifts weight restrictions on tanker trucks and allows them to travel 24 hours a day.

North Carolina Governor Cooper declared North Carolina’s price gouging law in effect and fuel regulations temporarily suspended amid the fuel shortage emergency.

Virginia’s Gov. Northam said that Virginia’s current gasoline reserves are sufficient to address the immediate supply problem.