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Colonial Pipeline restarts days after major hack

ap photo A hand written sign is posted on a gas pump, showing that the service station is out of all grades of fuel Wednesday in Charlotte, N.C. Several gas stations in the Southeast reported running out of fuel, primarily because of what analysts say is unwarranted panic-buying among drivers, as the shutdown of a major pipeline by hackers entered its fifth day.

CLEMMONS, N.C. — The nation’s largest fuel pipeline restarted operations Wednesday, days after it was forced to shut down by a gang of hackers.

The disruption of Colonial Pipeline caused long lines at gas stations in the Southeast due to distribution problems and panic-buying, draining supplies at thousands of gas stations.

Colonial initiated the restart of pipeline operations late Wednesday, saying in a statement that “all lines, including those lateral lines that have been running manually, will return to normal operations.”

But it will take several days for deliveries to return to normal, the company said.

In the meantime, drivers have been finding gas stations with little or no gas in some Southeast states.

The Colonial Pipeline, which delivers about 45% of the fuel consumed on the East Coast, was hit on Friday with a cyberattack by hackers who lock up computer systems and demand a ransom to release them. The hackers didn’t take control of the pipeline operations, but Colonial shut the pipeline down to contain the damage.

The attack raised concerns, once again, about the vulnerability of the nation’s critical infrastructure.

“What you’re feeling is not a lack of supply or a supply issue. What we have is a transportation issue,” said Jeanette McGee, spokeswoman for the AAA auto club. “There is ample supply to fuel the United States for the summer, but what we’re having is an issue with is getting it to those gas stations” because the pipeline is down.

The pipeline runs from the Gulf Coast to the New York metropolitan region, but states in the Southeast are more reliant on it. Other parts of the country have more sources to tap. For example, a substantial amount of fuel is delivered to states in the Northeast by massive tankers.

Jamar Gatison, 36, was filling up his tank in Norfolk, Virginia, Wednesday before a doctor’s appointment.

“I’m about to run out of gas, so I have no choice,” the construction worker said while waiting in line at a 7-Eleven.

“I’m also an Uber Eats driver. I also need gas for that,” said Gatison, who added he probably won’t deliver food Wednesday night because he doesn’t want to wait in line again while the shortage continues.

In North Carolina, 65% of gas stations were out of fuel, according to Gasbuddy.com, a technology firm that tracks real-time fuel prices across the country. Just outside Raleigh, two people were charged with assault after fighting and spitting in each other’s faces while arguing over their spots in line Tuesday at a Marathon gas station, authorities said.

North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper urged people Wednesday to only buy gas if their tank is low, and to report any instances of price gouging.

“This news is another reason people do not need to panic buy gas right now unless they really need it,” he tweeted after Colonial announced it was restarting the pipeline.

Georgians were also getting squeezed, with 43% of stations there out of gas, according to Gasbuddy.com. In Virginia, 44% of stations were out, and in South Carolina, 16% had no fuel.

Along the Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Georgia to Maine through some of the most rugged and remote terrain in the Southeast, hikers depend on car and van shuttles to ferry them to and from the trail and get them back to civilization.

“If I don’t have the gas, I’m not running,” said Ron Brown of Ellijay, Georgia, who operates Ron’s Appalachian Trail Shuttles and often takes hikers on hourslong trips from Atlanta’s airport into the north Georgia mountains, and to and from many points along the trail.

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