A gas shortage impacting several southern states left many Surry County residents scrambling to fill their tanks as several local stations began to run dry over the weekend.
A pipeline rupture in Helena, Alabama is blamed for the shortage.
Colonial Pipeline, the company responsible for the spill, issued a statement Monday indicating that many shipments initiated late last week have already been delivered to distribution terminals.
The Associated Press reported that the U.S. Department of Transportation is investigating the spill, which was first detected on Sept. 9 and has leaked between 252,000 gallons and 336,000 gallons of gasoline since then.
Response and repair efforts are ongoing at the spill site, including an attempt to construct a temporary bypass pipeline around the leak site, according to information provided by a Colonial Pipeline website dedicated to the situation.
“In an effort to minimize supply disruptions, last week Colonial Pipeline gathered gasoline from Gulf Coast refiners in order to ship supplies on its distillate line to markets throughout the affected region,” stated Sally McDonald, spokesperson for the company.
The affected region includes Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina and North Carolina.
In North Carolina, the company has mainline terminal locations in Greensboro and Charlotte as well as additional terminals in Raleigh and Selma.
“Based on our ongoing updates from Colonial, the construction of a bypass pipeline is moving forward which will soon allow fuel supply operations to return to normal,” Gov. Pat McCrory said in a statement released Sunday.
“In the meantime, my executive orders remain in effect to protect motorists from excessive gas prices and minimize any interruptions in the supply of fuel.”
In the span of a few minutes Monday afternoon, several vehicles pulled in to the pumps at Speedway in Dobson only to immediately pull out and continue on in pursuit of fuel.
Eddie Martin, driving a diesel pickup, had better luck. With premium grade gasoline and diesel still avaliable, the Dobson resident topped off his tank.
“It’s not really impacted us that much, but I bet it has a lot of people,” said Martin, noting that he hadn’t had to go out much that weekend.
“When you run out of gas you paralyze the world.”
Martin’s nephew, Cody Martin, of State Road, said his cousin had to take his work truck out on a Sunday on an emergency gas run.
“(The Dobson) Sheetz was the only place that had it,” Cody Martin said, adding that his cousin’s truck was on empty.
“I don’t know if he made it or not,” Martin said.
Many of the local stations were out of particular grades of fuel or completely dry.
“I try not to complain,” Eddie Martin said. “They’ll get it to us when they can.”
Later Monday afternoon at the Mount Airy Sheetz, a popular stop for those passing through on I-74, cars with out-of-state plates made the same roll-past-the-pumps-and-park maneuver.
Colin and Pat Houston, of New York, were surprised to see the out-of-service bags covering the pump handles.
“It’s the first we’ve heard of it,” they said of the shortage.
Another traveler from Pennsylvania, who also had not heard of the shortage, thought he had enough fuel to make it to his destination in Durham.
Gabe Leftwich and Danny Borne, who each drive Time Warner Cable work vans, said the fuel shortage hadn’t much impacted their work day.
Leftwich said, “until it’s all over,” they were instructed to top their tanks whenever they came across a station with fuel available.
“We had to drive around yesterday about 35 minutes to find a gas station,” Borne said.
Several local individuals swapped information about which stations still had gas on Facebook.
Eddie Martin said he was relieved to see that diesel was only priced at $2.35 per gallon. Regular gasoline was priced at about $2.15 at the East Atkins Road gas retailer.
“I was afraid they would double the price of gas,” Martin said, recalling having paid about $5 per gallon for the fuel during the 2008 shortage.
N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper issued a statement Monday alerting residents that the state’s price gouging law is currently in effect.
Charging too much in times of crisis is against North Carolina law when a disaster is proclaimed by the Governor.
“There is no set price or percentage increase defined in the law,” stated Noelle Talley, spokesperson. “If a gas price looks excessive, report it and we will look into it.”
More than 400 consumers had filed complaints to the department as of 11 a.m. Monday.
Reports can be made online at ncdoj.org, by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM, or by mailing a complaint to: Consumer Protection Division, Attorney General’s Office, Mail Service Center 9001, Raleigh, NC 27699-9001.
“It’s helpful if you can provide receipts if you purchased gas, or photos of gas station price signs you can spot,” Talley stated.
The DOJ Consumer Protection Division investigates complaints to determine if a law has been violated.
Those found to have violated the price gouging law can face fines of up to $5,000, which go to public schools.
According to a statement released Monday by AAA Carolinas, an affiliate of the American Automobile Association, North Carolina’s average price of gasoline is currently $2.16, which is up slightly from last week’s average of $2.05.
“We want to remind motorists that this issue is temporary and to continue normal habits at the pump,” stated Tiffany Wright, public relations manager for the non-profit organization.
“Once the supply issue is fixed, motorists will enjoy lower gas prices as we move into the winter-blend of fuel.”
Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.