Hackers hit Colonial Pipeline Co. over the weekend with a ransomware attack that takes data from computerized systems hostage until a payment is made, USA Today reported. The company subsequently shut down its 5,500 miles of pipeline on May 8 as an effort to contain the breach, according to The New York Times. Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at fuel-savings app GasBuddy, told USA Today that gas may run out at stations in states that rely on the Colonial's supply if the situation isn't fixed soon. Per the Colonial Pipeline Co. website, the pipeline runs through 13 states: New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas.
Colonial Pipeline Co. CEO Joseph Blount allegedly warned state officials in a private virtual meeting on May 10 that supply shortages could occur even if the company reopens the pipeline later this week as planned, a source familiar with the discussion told Bloomberg. Blount reportedly announced that the company was in the middle of developing a restart plan but would not resume gas shipments until the ransomware had been removed.
"The President continues to be regularly briefed on the Colonial Pipeline incident. The Administration is continually assessing the impact of this ongoing incident on fuel supply for the East Coast," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in statement May 10. "The President has directed agencies across the Federal Government to bring their resources to bear to help alleviate shortages where they may occur."
As Bloomberg reports, Colonial Pipeline said it is manually operating a segment of the pipeline from North Carolina to Maryland. But the resulting plans to restore all service to the pipeline later this week may not be fast enough to prevent shortages in the Southeast. Per Bloomberg, gas stations from Virginia to Alabama have reportedly already sold out of gas, with DeHaan telling Bloomberg that an estimated 7 percent of gas stations in Virginia were out of fuel later in the day on May 10. Twitter users in Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, and North Carolina have started to complain about gas shortages as well, Newsweek reported.
"Dumb luck for sure, but I got the very last tank of gas at Murphy Express on Hwy 161," Greg Suskin, a reporter in South Carolina, tweeted alongside a video of the empty gas station. "That's no exaggeration either. An employee stuck the 'out of gas' sign on my pump while I was still filling my truck. The place quickly cleared out."
This pipeline disruption has already started to affect gas prices as well. The Energy Information Administration reported on May 10 that average national retail prices increased to $3.05 a gallon last week—which is the highest the average has been since Nov. 2014, as reported by Insider. American Automobile Association (AAA) spokesperson Jeannette McGee said in a statement that Mississippi, Tennessee, and the East Coast from Georgia into Delaware are "most likely" to experience gas price increases this week, which could be anywhere from three to seven cents.