By Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice on May 12, 2021
Update: At a few minutes after 5 p.m. on May 12, Colonial Pipeline issued this statement.
Colonial Pipeline initiated the restart of pipeline operations today at approximately 5 p.m. ET.
Following this restart, it will take several days for the product delivery supply chain to return to normal. Some markets served by Colonial Pipeline may experience, or continue to experience, intermittent service interruptions during the start-up period. Colonial will move as much gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel as is safely possible and will continue to do so until markets return to normal.
As we initiate our return to service, our primary focus remains safety. As part of this startup process, Colonial will conduct a comprehensive series of pipeline safety assessments in compliance with all Federal pipeline safety requirements.
This is the first step in the restart process and would not have been possible without the around-the-clock support of Colonial Pipeline’s dedicated employees who have worked tirelessly to help us achieve this milestone. We would also like to thank the White House for their leadership and collaboration, as well as the Department of Energy, Department of Transportation, FBI, PHMSA, FERC and other federal, state and local agencies for their ongoing support.
We will continue to provide updates as restart efforts progress.
With gasoline outages now commonplace on the Outer Banks, local business and tourism officials say they are fielding calls from people concerned about making their planned visit to the resort area. “We’re getting some calls, I think the media stories have created some concern,” said Outer Banks Visitors Bureau Executive Director Lee Nettles.
“We are getting a lot of calls from people that are planning to come in this weekend,” said Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce President Karen Brown. “They’ve very concerned.”
At the moment, North Carolina seems to be ground zero for the shortage/panic that has set in following the shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline. According to the latest crowdsourced data by GasBuddy, as of mid-afternoon on May 12, about two-thirds (or 65%) of gas stations in the state are currently without fuel. That is well ahead of the next three states — Virginia at 44%, Georgia at 43% and South Carolina at 43%.
Dare County Manager Bobby Outten told the Voice that the county’s key responsibility in this situation is to have enough fuel stockpiled to sustain county functions – from first responders to school buses. “We’re on that and we think we’re good there,” he said.
Outten also stated that Dare County Emergency Management Director Drew Pearson has been in contact with the towns in the county to ensure that they are not running short on the fuel needed to provide municipal services.
Addressing the consumer rush to the gas pumps that is fueling shortages, Outten observed that “Local government has little or no control over gas buying.”
Noting that “the run on the [gas] stations is kind of creating this issue,” Nettles said his organization has been “trying to calm [people] down a bit. All indications are it’s going to be pretty short-lived.”
But he also acknowledged that the fuel-shortage concerns expressed by those planning to vacation here remind him of people who call when there’s a hurricane in the mid-Atlantic seeking guarantees that the storm won’t impact their Outer Banks vacation.
“I can’t promise them about anything that is beyond our control,” he said.
For her part, Brown said some of the calls the chamber is getting about the gas crunch are similar to those during the COVID crisis when scheduled vacationers complained they could not get vacation refunds from their rental company if they chose not to come.
Like many others, Brown is unsure how long this situation will last and how acute it will become.
“I don’t have a crystal ball,” she notes.