By Connie Leinbach
“Can you just get five gallons, sir?” Drew Batts, co-owner of Jerniman’s, asked a customer Tuesday evening following a day of long lines at the only gas station on Ocracoke.
A wave of panic buying across the state was set off by the temporary shutdown over the weekend of the Colonial Pipeline, which supplies much of the fuel for the East Coast, after learning it was the victim of a cybersecurity attack.
Colonial’s 5,500-mile gas pipeline in the eastern United States is a primary fuel pipeline for North Carolina.
Batts said the gas pumps will close from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. each day to help conserve the supply.
Gov. Roy Cooper on Monday declared a state of emergency suspending vehicle fuel regulations to ensure adequate fuel supplies throughout the state” as prices jumped to nearly $3 per gallon.
The per gallon price of regular unleaded at Jerniman’s is $3.09, but that has been the price for several weeks.
Around 7:30 this evening, Batts began asking customers to limit their purchases to five gallons or fewer so that there’s enough gas for islanders, too.
He said Beasley Enterprises in Ahoskie, which owns the pumps, made a delivery of 9,000 gallons today.
“And we’ve already gone through 2,000 gallons,” Batts said. “This gas has to last until next delivery,” but that won’t be for another two to three weeks.
Batts, on the Ocracoke Island Facebook page went further and said that if gas starts running low they may require everyone to show current fuel gauge and proof of residency to get any gas at all.
“Please understand we don’t want to do any of this…and I don’t want to prevent anyone from being able to travel or enjoy our island,” he wrote, “but when it’s gone, it’s going to be gone until at least the end of the month.”
Hyde County Manager Kris Noble said that county emergency services and sheriff deputies have adequate fuel.
The Ocracoke post office clerk Melissa Sharber said that the mail truck has gas and that they do not expect a disruption of mail service.
According to Observer news sources, many stations on the Outer Banks were reporting they’ve run out and others are limiting how much you can purchase at one time.
Any shortages seen at individual gas stations are a result of people panic buying, not the Colonial Pipeline shutdown itself, Tiffany Wright, a spokesperson for AAA Carolinas, told The Asheville Citizen Times.
“People hear something and panic,” Wright said, according to the newspaper. “It’s still early, but what I will say is that we do have ample supply even though the Colonial Pipeline is responsible for 45% of the fuel going to the East Coast.”
According to a Tweet by the FBI on Monday, a cybercrime group called DarkSide is behind the attack. The group makes money by encrypting victims’ files and threatening to publish them online unless a ransom is paid.
Richard Taylor contributed to this story.