Charlotte-area drivers are being urged not to panic over gas shortages after a leak of an Alabama pipeline caused gas supply disruptions and price spikes across the South. A fix of the pipeline should cause fuel prices in the area to begin stabilizing soon.
Colonial Pipeline has completed a temporary bypass that will allow it on Wednesday to restart its main gas line in Shelby County, Ala., which dumped up to 336,000 gallons of gas into a detention pond earlier this month. It will, however, take a few days for the fuel supply to fully recover, Colonial said.
The average price of a gallon of unleaded gas in Charlotte is up 3 cents from Monday to $2.23, 19 cents higher than it was a week ago, according to auto group AAA. Some stations throughout the region continue to report outages and shortages.
AAA spokeswoman Tiffany Wright said news of supply shortages has caused area drivers to rush to the pumps to fill up, and the increased demand helps prop up prices.
“Even though the pipeline is going to be back up and running, there’s still a lot of panic out there,” Wright said. “Folks who don’t even need to are filling up their tanks and topping off. It’s happening at an alarming rate.”
At a press conference in Charlotte Tuesday, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory also urged customers to avoid filling up their gas tanks unnecessarily.
“That causes more problems than anything,” McCrory said, because it disrupts the normal supply and demand for what is available.
The state is receiving about a third of its normal gas flow, the governor said. But he anticipates local fuel supplies will be “back to normal” in two to three days.
Since Friday, more than 1,000 people have filed complaints to report possible price gouging at gas stations across North Carolina , according to the N.C. Attorney General’s Office.
At QuikTrip stations across Charlotte, customers are still experiencing some shortages and slightly higher prices because of the backlog of trucks trying to resupply them, spokesman Mike Thornbrugh said.
“I do think as the days go on, it’ll get better,” Thornbrugh said.
The change in seasons should help lower prices, AAA’s Wright said. Stations in Charlotte and beyond have switched over to winter-blend gasoline, which is cheaper, she noted. And as the weather gets colder, demand for gas lessens, which should provide further price relief at the pump, she added.
The Raleigh News & Observer, WBTV and Associated Press contributed.