By Nia Harden, WRAL reporter
Raleigh, N.C. — Numerous gas stations in the Triangle struggled Tuesday to keep the pumps open following a cyberattack on a major interstate fuel pipeline.
As people lined up to fill up at stations across the region, Gov. Roy Cooper's state of emergency declaration put North Carolina's price gouging law into effect to keep a lid on rising gas prices.
"Report price gouging, and please don't rush to top off your tanks," Cooper said in a statement.
People can report exorbitant spikes in gas prices by calling the state Attorney General's Office at 877-NO-SCAM.
The Colonial Pipeline, which delivers about 45 percent of the fuel consumed on the East Coast – and almost all of the fuel in eastern North Carolina – had to halt operations last week after a ransomware attack that affected some of its systems.
The White House was monitoring supply shortages in parts of the Southeast, and President Joe Biden directed federal agencies to bring their resources to bear.
"I have talked today with federal officials, including Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, and we have a full-court press to get the Colonial Pipeline back up and fully operating quickly," Cooper said.
The state of emergency also suspended motor vehicle fuel regulations to guarantee North Carolina has an adequate fuel supply.
While North and South Carolina, along with Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia, are expected to be most impacted by the pipeline shutdown, significant fuel supply shortages aren't expected, the governor said. Energy Department officials likewise urged people not to panic buy gasoline.
The pleas by Cooper and federal officials fell on deaf ears, however, as Raleigh drivers rushed out to fill their tanks.
“I filled up once today. I came back with my other car," Norman Primous said.
"This is the fourth gas station," Natalia Markova said of her search for gas.
“I am going to try to keep it over half [a tank] just in case this all disappears," Quenton Cobb said. "I am going to make sure I have enough to get back and forth."
Colonial officials said Monday that they expect to have services mostly restored by the end of the week.
Until then, fuel deliveries continue at most stations, with gas coming in from out of the area. For example, some stations that usually get fuel from the Colonial Pipeline tap in Selma were getting it from suppliers in Wilmington.
AAA reported the average gas price in North Carolina shot up 5 cents between Monday and Tuesday and 12 cents from a week ago. The organization advised drivers to complete their errands in one trip, avoid rush-hour traffic and limit the use of air conditioning to conserve gas.