ByLogan Reigstad|May 13, 2021 at 7:01 AM EDT - Updated May 13 at 10:32 AM
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - AAA Carolinas is warning gas prices likely won’t fall quickly despite a pipeline supplying much of the East Coast’s fuel began to come back online Wednesday following a cyberattack.
Colonial Pipeline began to restart operations around 5 p.m. Wednesday, nearly a week after the company learned it had fallen victim to a ransomware attack.That cyberattack led the company to shut down its pipeline, which supplies gasoline to approximately 45% of the southeast.
The company stressed in a news release that it will take “several days” for operations and supplies to return to normal.
Even when supplies level out, prices likely won’t immediately return to pre-cyberattack levels, AAA Carolinas spokesperson Tiffany Wright said.
“Prices shoot up like a rocket; they unfortunately fall like a feather, so.. unfortunately I think we’re in for higher prices for the foreseeable future,” she said.
When the pipeline shut down, officials expected some impacts, including possibly some temporary shortages, Wright said, but the horde of people going out to fill up their tanks led to a surge in demand at the same time supply is limited.
In some spots, demand climbed as much as 30% in just days due to panic buying, similar to the surge in demand for toilet paper at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic that led to empty shelves nationwide.
“When you’re seeing shortages and you’re seeing bagged pumps, it’s very, very easy for us to all want to run out and try to find a gas station that has gas, but at the end of the day it’s only causing the delays, it’s only worsening the situation,” she said.
As of Wednesday night,GasBuddy reported 53% of the Palmetto State’s gas stations were out of fuel.
While some people need to fill up to make sure they can get to work or school, Wright said those who don’t leave home as often, including those who are working remotely or are retired, should not feel they have to rush to the pump to top off their tanks.
Even though the pipeline is starting to come back online, AAA Carolinas expects the pain at the pump to continue. Wright said the region may see some of the highest prices at the pump in quite some time this Memorial Day weekend.
“You have to add to the fact that we have a couple factors at play here,” she said. “We have the world opening up, we have demand now increasing, I mean look, we’re ahead of Memorial Day travel, so you’ve got to think about more people are going to be getting on the road, you have that pent-up demand due to the pandemic so those that are going to be traveling are going to be doing so with road trips, so I think demand’s going to be pretty high.”
The group recommends people consolidate trips when possible to save fuel.
While AAA is not telling people to consider canceling their trips just yet, they are reminding drivers to be prepared to avoid getting stranded on the side of the road.
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