Workers have completed a 500-foot bypass around the leaking pipeline in Alabama, but many North Carolina motorists are still struggling to find gas.
Colonial Pipeline, which supplies fuel to much of the Southeast, said it expected fuel to start flowing again Wednesday evening. But that doesn’t mean drivers will wake up Thursday morning to an abundance of fuel at local gas stations.
Here are some things to know about the gas shortage:
When will things get back to normal?
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A: It could take several days for the fuel supply to return to normal levels, Colonial said in a statement Wednesday.
“Colonial continues to move as much gasoline, diesel and jet fuel as possible and will continue to do so as markets return to normal,” the company said.
Gas stations in rural areas may be slower to get fuel because it takes longer for tankers to get there, said Tiffany Wright, spokeswoman for AAA Carolinas.
But there’s good news: Once normal fuel service is restored, gas prices are expected to drop below what they were before the shortage, Wright said. In mid-September, gas stations start selling a cheaper winter-blend fuel.
The average price per gallon has shot up to $2.22 in Raleigh – about an 8.6 percent uptick in the last week, according to the website gasbuddy.com.
What is the best time of day to fuel up?
A: Early in the day might be the best bet.
“Come before 5 p.m. We’re going to run out,” said Eddy Mesad, an employee at an Exxon station on New Bern Avenue in Raleigh.
The Village Exxon on St. Mary’s Street near downtown Raleigh ran out of gas at 2 p.m. Tuesday but expects to receive a shipment around midnight Wednesday, said Ahmad Saad, an employee at the station.
For the most part, it varies from station to station.
Wright said drivers shouldn’t alter their routines – they should fill up when they normally would. Returning to usual habits will help balance supply and demand, she said.
Should I postpone my travel plans this weekend?
A: It probably depends on how brave you are.
But Wright said drivers shouldn’t cancel plans. They should fill up their tanks before heading out and keep in mind that rural areas are more likely to be out of fuel.
Some parts of the state, including Asheville, are experiencing greater shortages, Wright said.
“Just travel smart,” she said.
Are motorists contributing to the problem?
A: When the pipeline began leaking, some drivers panicked and rushed to gas stations. So the supply is down – North Carolina is receiving about a third of its normal gas flow – while demand is way up.
“Motorists really had a big part in this,” Wright said. “It’s a very emotional thing. They changed their spending habits, which caused a buying crisis.”
What about price gouging?
A: Attorney General Roy Cooper issued subpoenas to two more gas stations Wednesday, bringing the total issued to seven. One subpoena went to a station in Indian Trail in Union County, and one went to a station in Raleigh. Both are accused of charging $4.99 or more per gallon.
To file a consumer complaint about price gouging, go to ncdoj.gov or call 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.
How can I find a gas station with fuel near me?
A: Apps like GasBuddy, Gas Guru, MapQuest Gas Prices, Fuelzee, Cheap Gas! and Waze can help you find stations with fuel and reasonable prices. Read more about those apps here.
Madison Iszler: 919-836-4952; @madisoniszler