Gas an added headache for Monday morning commute

The work week began this morning with drivers in metro Atlanta and across the state wondering if they can fill up amid continuing fallout from an Alabama pipeline spill that has pinched gasoline supplies in Georgia.

Outages have been spotty, but prices are rising. Gasbuddy this morning showed the metro average at $2.47 a gallon, which is up from $2.16 last Tuesday just before the pipeline problem.

Governors in several states, including Georgia, signed orders easing restrictions on long-haul truckers to keep shipments rolling to help relieve the fuel crunch.

Leonard McElhannon, of Loganville, on Sunday said stations were busy with people fueling up in preparation for the work week. He said he didn’t think people were hoarding.

McElhannon said he thinks people should limit their travel in case the steps that Colonial and the governors of Southern states, including Georgia, are taking to ease the crunch on supplies isn’t enough.

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“I’m worried about the trucks being able to keep up with the demand,” he said.

Colonial Pipeline is working to bypass a rupture in a segment of a key line that has caused gas shortages in the Atlanta area and states across the South.

On Sunday, Colonial said it had started a temporary stretch of pipeline to bypass the damaged section in Alabama.

"Yesterday evening, Colonial Pipeline began implementation of its plan to construct a bypass around the impacted segment of Line 1. Work conditions were favorable overnight and into today for bypass construction. The projected restart of Line 1 remains unchanged," the Alpharetta-based company said in the latest statement on its website. Colonial has said it expects the line to be repaired this week but has not been more specific.

Colonial said the leak was detected Sept. 9 by a mining inspector in Line 1 in Shelby County, Ala., near Birmingham. The pipeline, a critical connection from refineries along the Gulf Coast to numerous states, running from Houston to North Carolina.

It is believed that an amount between 250,000 gallons to more than 330,000 gallons of fuel leaked from the rupture.

Colonial also said it is pumping gasoline in another key pipeline to help relieve service disruptions.

Gov. Nathan Deal signed an executive order temporarily waiving certain federal restrictions thereby allowing truckers to stay on roads longer to deliver fuel.

“We are confident these measures will help ensure Georgians’ uninterrupted access to motor fuel until Alabama’s pipeline is fixed,” Deal said in a statement last week.

Jen Talaber Ryan, a spokeswoman for Deal, said in an email Sunday that “if that changes on Monday or at any time in the coming days, the governor’s office will act accordingly,” she said.

“Gov. Deal has done everything possible, including seeking and receiving an EPA waiver and extending his executive order allowing commercial truck drivers hauling motor fuel, to mitigate the effects of the Alabama pipeline spill,” she said. “If people maintain normal consumption levels and travel routines, the measures Gov. Deal has put in place should be effective.”

John Simpson of Alpharetta said a Kroger near his home had regular unleaded on Sunday, but was out of higher-octane fuels, and a nearby QuikTrip was closed.

A BP station at Old Alabama and Jones Bridge roads was selling unleaded for $2.79 a gallon this morning, he said, and had a parking lot packed with cars.

“There was not a place to get into the parking lot,” he said. “The places that normally have cheap gas are out, but the places that are usually a bit higher still have some.”

Metro residents took to social media to share their experiences hunting for gas. Reports of closed stations ranged from Conyers to Carrollton and beyond.

“We’re out of gas,” Russell Stookey, an attorney in Hiawassee in the North Georgia Mountains, said Saturday. “Every station I’ve gone by, they’ve got signs saying, ‘no gas.’ ”

Stookey said cars waiting at stations were spilling out into the streets of his north Georgia city. He watched as one station that did have gas raised its price from $2.49 to $3.09 per gallon.

Colonial pumps more than 100 million gallons of various fuels daily, according to its website, in states stretching from Texas to New York. It’s network of pipelines stretch more than 5,500 miles, the company said.

Staff writers Steve Burns and Chris Joyner contributed to this report.

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