Could the gas crunch impact OBX tourism? 

By on May 12, 2021

Local officials fielding calls from concerned visitors

(Mark Jurkowitz)

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.

Dash for gas fuels shortages, long lines





  • Zack Bass

    There wouldn’t be a shortage if people didn’t panic-buy and horde. Mass hysteria.

    Wednesday, May 12 @ 6:01 pm
  • Al

    They will visit. They cannot resist the outer banks siren song.

    Wednesday, May 12 @ 6:38 pm
  • Andrea

    How are those tourists who live great distances away from the OBX going to have enough gas to return home at the end of their vacation rentals later this week??? We came from the Atlanta metro!

    Thursday, May 13 @ 12:00 am
  • Bud

    Let’s hope it put a damper on tourism. Place is being destroyed, quality of life down the drain, all due to this new demographic.
    Tourism here was healthy for all 25 years ago, now it’s destructive.

    Thursday, May 13 @ 5:58 am
  • lippy

    Just like the panic buying of toliet paper last year. The ugly side of human nature is revealed and demonstrated by locals and tourists!

    Thursday, May 13 @ 7:40 am
  • Find your calm

    We are so dependent. Change is coming and humans can’t stop it. No need to complain. Remember We are still in a pandemic. Go for a bike ride and stop to smell the flowers. Be mindful and use positive intelligence. Smile and Have a nice day.

    Thursday, May 13 @ 9:34 am
  • sandflea

    When you have an infrastructure designed for 35,000-50,000 people and you have over 200,000 people here, something has to give. Now, we have a bunch of “I, me, my” gas hoarders that sucked up ALL of our gas here and people are now stuck in the proverbial corner. I’m curious to see if some people won’t be able to get home now as others are coming in to occupy their rentals. I already had a feeling this place was going to be a total disaster this summer and it just got off to a worse than imagined start.

    Thursday, May 13 @ 9:35 am
  • Michael

    They will always come !! Always. Haven’t we learned this by now? No worries at all. Zero. Trust me, they will be here.

    Thursday, May 13 @ 10:15 am
  • anotherobxman

    With a little luck….they will stay home.

    Thursday, May 13 @ 11:00 am
  • thomas

    @ Bud.. I second that completely. We live up in Southern Shores and when the dreaded tourists arrive it is like living beside a freeway that had a bad pileup. I would not recommend anyone to live in Southern Shores unless they like living in a smog filled freeway with people taking a $hit in their yard and pissing on their newly planted grass. A tourist economy is the worst economy on earth. A very few people make a decent living, they are politically connected so they get their way every time while the rest scrape by on minimum wage with no health care insurance and can’t find an affordable place to live in their lives depended on it.

    Thursday, May 13 @ 11:24 am
  • Martha R Fletcher

    It’s a breakdown in the delivery system. There is not shortage of product. Only the delivery of it. If the oil companies had spent the money on protecting their infrastructure this could have been avoided. There is also a serious shortage of CDL drivers to drive the trucks. It’s not like the warning signs weren’t there. This said, this is only a temporary problem and we will again receive fuel. Tourists will just have to take this into account this week but it’s not going to affect tourism in the long term.

    Thursday, May 13 @ 11:43 am
  • Dylan

    My great fear is that tourists will come again just like the cicadas but they will not be able to leave!

    Thursday, May 13 @ 3:59 pm
  • Kevin

    Thanks to all the Karena and marks .. I guess those stupid idiots Can’t put all that Lysol and toilet paper their stocked up last year on in the gas tank 🖕🏻

    Thursday, May 13 @ 4:51 pm
  • Susie

    Tourists need to be told that gasoline is in short supply here, but it will get better. To let them think we are sitting with gasoline stations loaded with gas is ridiculous. Give it the right time to correct, we have all summer. Not telling them the truth is just doing it for the money.

    Thursday, May 13 @ 8:41 pm
  • hightider

    Dylan, if only the tourists could be like cicadas and come once every 17 years….

    Friday, May 14 @ 2:47 am
  • Johnston

    This gasoline situation is something the Dare County control group needs to take a serious look at. I’ve heard the gas shortage being compared to events of a natural disaster such as a hurricane. During a hurricane however a mandatory evacuation is called for and people leave. Generally the people that remained are essential Personnel necessary for Aid and Recovery efforts post-storm. The only problem getting gas during the disaster is if the power is out which was experienced during Hurricane Isabel in 2003.
    The problem we have now is the tourists wanting to come here for vacation, and the service industry the tries to keep these people happy so they’ll come back. The people that come here are worried about getting home and her constantly topping off their tanks. My son saw a man filling two five-gallon gas cans. The man saw my son looking at him and told him he said “I’m not trying to be a jerk but I have to drive all the way to Atlanta and I may not find gas on the way.”
    The problem as I see it is the necessary service people that need to be taking care of these guests don’t have time to spend 2 and 3 hours sitting in a gas line getting gas when they’re supposed to be out working. This is going to lead to guest complaints because when they call the real estate company about a problem and the real estate company calls the service company, the service person may not have fuel to get there until the next day. So how is this helping anyone? I really think the Dare County Control Group should take a serious look at handling fuel shortages in the future and how we can ensure a fair balance between keeping our economy going and keeping the people that service that economy working.

    Friday, May 14 @ 7:45 am
  • Mike Myers

    Too much development and planning for Tourists only and not enough for folks who live and work on the OBX has pretty much destroyed the area. Greed on behalf of county and town officials has changed the whole area to a point where we will never get it back. My family aren’t native but we’ve been here since the 1970s living year round. I recently sold the family home and property as I was the last one left in my family alive. I have fully moved as of last 2 months and so glad I got out before this years Invasion of Tourists. Yes the area relies on the weekly visitors but it seems like their behavior gets worse every year. The county doesn’t care and OBX Tourism commercials continue all over. I find it funny how they show traffic in the big cities it says BOX then changes to OBX with a pristine empty beach…haha what a joke! The area has become trashed by some, not all, of these rude and obnoxious visitors here during the IN season. Tragically, it seems the IN season is expanding. I wish those natives and locals who stay much luck. My decision was to GTFO. I couldn’t stand it any longer to watch the area decline due to poor planning and lack of care for year round residents and workers. I now have a pretty nice spread with some left over to reestablish myself in the Western part of the State. For those fed up don’t be afraid to relocate if you want to. Life is short. It was a fairly easy process for me and I hope it is for you to relocate.
    No offense to those who decide to stay…To Each Their Own as the saying goes. I’m so glad I left recently and will visit friends on the OBX during the OFF SEASON ONLY if there is an off season left in the future. Take care fellow year round Beach Bums! I mean that term in a good way!!

    Friday, May 14 @ 3:02 pm
  • Zack Bass

    Hightider- This place is 100% dependent on Tourist dollars. Most of us have jobs because of them. If they stop coming, this economy collapses. All the retirees will suffer too.

    Friday, May 14 @ 7:57 pm
  • hightider

    “The retirees” are presumably people who receive retirement benefits. If the OBX is too expensive for them, they need to relocate. Otherwise if people have jobs that are dependent on tourist dollars – unskilled labor: then they should relocate to a less expensive area. Carrying trays, pouring drinks, mowing grass, and cleaning motel rooms are personal career choices made many years ago. I remember the OBX of over 60 years ago and no one was 100% dependent on tourist dollars. The tourist season was simply a time to pick up extra cash. Even in FL which is completely dependent on tourism, unskilled labor still receives minimum wage and lives at or below the poverty level. People are responsible for themselves – skills like nursing, plumbing, accounting, or teaching are always in demand. Some people want the “fun” jobs like being a fishing guide. People who invest in restaurants realize that most restaurants fail. People who create businesses like kites or hang gliding understand they are undertaking a risk. If you don’t have a valuable job skill, it doesn’t matter where you are – you will still be poor and dependent. If that is the case, why live in one of the most expensive areas of NC?

    Saturday, May 15 @ 2:27 am
  • Joan mcmin

    Seems as though the triangle cities r first in line for gas then I reckon as always we will be the last and should only allow dare county residents gas first then what’s left let the tourists fight over it

    Monday, May 17 @ 4:12 pm