Gas shortages start surfacing around metro Atlanta

Customers wait their turn to fill up at an Atlanta Sam's Club on Clairmont road on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. Despite reports of gasoline shortages scattered throughout the Southeast on Tuesday morning because of a cybertattack involving Colonial Pipeline, industry analysts and experts are warning against panic buying and hoarding of gasoline. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Caption
Customers wait their turn to fill up at an Atlanta Sam's Club on Clairmont road on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. Despite reports of gasoline shortages scattered throughout the Southeast on Tuesday morning because of a cybertattack involving Colonial Pipeline, industry analysts and experts are warning against panic buying and hoarding of gasoline. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Gallon price at area pumps rises 11 cents in past day

Consumers reported higher prices, long waits and empty pumps at some gas stations scattered throughout metro Atlanta on Tuesday afternoon, although a widespread shortage had not yet materialized.

The supply strain is a result of the recent cyberattack on Colonial Pipeline, which operates the biggest gas pipeline on the East Coast. Colonial, headquartered in Alpharetta, said it plans to “substantially” restore services by the end of the week.

Motorists encountered long lines or outages at some gas stations in Acworth, Athens, Brookhaven, Fairburn, Lilburn, Marietta and other towns. Some gas station managers said they expected fuel trucks to arrive this evening to refill their tanks.

Meanwhile, the average price in metro Atlanta for a gallon of gas soared 11 cents from Monday to Tuesday, according to AAA. A jump of that size is extremely rare, the group said.

Federal and state officials took steps, such as waiving some fuel requirements, to address the shortages. Gov. Brian Kemp temporarily suspended the state gas tax.

ExploreGeorgia suspends state gas tax amid Colonial Pipeline outage

About 5% of stations in Georgia, and 16% of metro Atlanta stations, were out of gas early Tuesday afternoon, according to GasBuddy, which bases its figures on voluntary online contributions. By 4:30 p.m., the metro Atlanta figure had risen to 20%.

The actual percentage could be higher, said Patrick De Haan, GasBuddy’s head of petroleum analysis, noting reports had not been submitted by volunteer spotters on the other 80% of area stations.

Two large truck stop chains, Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores and TravelCenters of America, said that fuel has become scarce in some states, according to a media report.

Two of the largest gas retailers in metro Atlanta — Kroger and QuikTrip — said the cyberattack impacted their operations in the Southeast but declined to provide details on locations that have experienced shortages.

RaceTrac said nine locations in Georgia were completely out of gas Tuesday afternoon and 26 other locations only had diesel. The Atlanta-based company regularly updates a website that lists which locations have certain types of fuel in stock.

Trucks are carrying emergency shipments of fuel and diesel from Texas to metro Atlanta, and some companies are looking for ships to deliver fuel to coastal terminals, according to the National Association of Convenience Stores.

“The liquid fuels distribution system is complex and relies upon consistent operation of various components,” Jeff Lenard, an executive at NACS, said in a statement. “When any one of these components is disrupted, it can cause supply challenges.”

Gas industry representatives urged consumers to not panic and wait as long as possible before filling their tanks. Panic buying could prolong outages, said GasBuddy’s De Haan.

Every day the Colonial Pipeline remains down, it will take an additional five to seven days to recover, said GasBuddy spokeswoman Allison Mac.

Jennifer DuVall said she drove to three gas stations in Acworth, coming up empty, before stopping at a Kroger on U.S. Highway 41. She filled up her Acura MDX, then fetched her daughter’s car and gave her a full tank at the same Kroger.

“By the time I got there with my daughter’s car, the line expanded out the Kroger parking lot, almost to the Lowe’s,” she said.

Dana O’Bryan said she was filling up her Jeep Compass at a BP on Cobb Parkway in Acworth when a station attendant ran over to say the BP was out of gas.

“They clearly were not out because it was pumping as she spoke,” said O’Bryan, who didn’t stop until her vehicle was full.

Customers wait their turn to fill up at Costco Brookhaven Warehouse on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. Despite reports of gasoline shortages scattered throughout the Southeast on Tuesday morning because of a cybertattack involving Colonial Pipeline, industry analysts and experts are warning against panic buying and hoarding of gasoline.(Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Caption
Customers wait their turn to fill up at Costco Brookhaven Warehouse on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. Despite reports of gasoline shortages scattered throughout the Southeast on Tuesday morning because of a cybertattack involving Colonial Pipeline, industry analysts and experts are warning against panic buying and hoarding of gasoline.(Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Long lines also spilled into highway traffic at a QuikTrip on Paces Ferry Road in Vinings, and a Golden Pantry convenience store on College Station Road in Athens, according to motorists.

“It was like watching a potential demolition derby with cars in the street waiting for a spot,” said Lisa Stabler, who waited for a pump to become available at the Golden Pantry.

Station attendants were forced to direct traffic due to long lines at Costco stores in Brookhaven, Dunwoody and Smyrna. Costco did not respond to a request for comment.

Jeanette Smith of Suwanee filled up Monday night at a BP on state Highway 141, but the station was out when she drove by this morning to top off her tank.

The spike in gas prices on Tuesday indicated that consumers were emptying pumps due to worries about the pipeline, said Montrae Waiters, a spokeswoman for AAA. The average price in metro Atlanta jumped from $2.76 per gallon on Monday to $2.87 on Tuesday.

“We know a lot of this is dealing with folks going out and panic buying,” she said. “We’ve got plenty of fuel in the U.S. There’s no need to panic buy.”

Operations at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport have not been impacted by the pipeline shutdown, but the airport is “working with alternative suppliers to maintain adequate levels of fuel,” according to airport spokesman Andy Gobeil.

ExploreDon’t panic during latest gasoline crisis, experts say

-Kelly Yamanouchi and Christopher Quinn contributed to this report