One of the Exxon stations on Washington Road, near the National Hills Shopping Center, had cars lined up to buy gas on Wednesday, May 12 because many other local stations had already run out. (Photo by Josh Heath)
Business owners hear all kinds of excuses for why their employees can’t make it to work. This week, some of these employees may have an unusual reason for missing work: a lack of gasoline.
Gas stations all over the Southeast have temporarily run out of gas, thanks to a May 7 cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline, which supplies gas to much of the Eastern United States. But a free app called Gas Buddy can help drivers find out which stations have gas close to them and which ones don’t, as well as available gas prices. ABD found gas on May 12 at a few local stores, including Costco and the Pilot station on Riverwatch Parkway.
Drivers can download the app to save both time and gas.
Most people need gas to get back and forth to work, but some people’s livelihood depends on driving, so they can’t afford to run out. Missy Lever, sales account executive for Lamar Advertising – a billboard advertising company – depends on a steady supply of gas to visit her clients. “We go out on prospecting calls, so that definitely affects us,” says Lever. When she went to buy gas on Tuesday, May 11, “Everywhere I went, they had the yellow bags on the pumps,” Lever explains. As of the next day, she still had about half a tank in her car, so she didn’t seem too concerned.
Some drivers have found creative ways to avoid running out. For example, Melissa Gordon, who provides some of the photography for Augusta Business Daily, signed up for a Costco membership just for the right to have gasoline in her 2004 Lexus SUV. “When I went there, I said ‘I have my number where I signed up, but I don’t have my card,’” says Gordon. “The man said ‘That’s OK. We’re being really lenient on that.’ “
Others, such as Harlem resident Marcus Grimm, had to visit several stations before finding gas. “It’s ridiculous. I finally found a little bit at the BP in Harlem,” says Grimm. “As of 5 p.m. yesterday (Tuesday, May 11), you couldn’t find gas anywhere.”
This week, many have begun throwing around the term shortage, but Garrett Townsend, Georgia’s public affairs director for the AAA Auto Club Group, has a different description of the situation. “The verbiage we use is temporary outage,” says Townsend. “There is an ample supply of gasoline in the United States.” He states many gas stations are simply waiting for more gas to be delivered. According to Townsend, part of the problem is some people are panicking and thinking they will run out. “Motorists race out to top off their tanks,” he explains. “There’s just been such a surge in the demand for gas.” Townsend says the U.S. has dealt with this problem before. For instance, a leak in the Colonial Pipeline caused a major shortage in Sept. 2016. “We urge drivers to be calm,” he adds. “Don’t make things worse than they already are.”
John Butler and his partner, Marty Koger, with MarKo Petroleum once owned 20 BP stations in the Augusta area. Butler recalls the 2008 gas shortage, which was caused by two hurricanes – Ike and Gustav. At that time, he says they conserved gas by limiting the quantity each customer could buy at their stations. “We were the only ones that had gas in Augusta,” Butler explains. He and Koger sold their gas stations and now ship ethanol, which is added to gas. Butler says each delivery truck unloads 8,500 gallons of gas, and large suppliers, such as Costco, can use up to three times that amount in a single day. Like everyone else, he hopes this situation is resolved quickly. “They’re (the Colonial Pipeline) working on it around the clock, but we don’t know what progress they’ve made,” Butler explains.
Editor’s Note: At press time, ABD got word that Colonial Pipeline is returning to service after the ransomware attack. They say it may take several days for area gas stations to be back to normal.