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How long will we face high gas prices and low supply in 2-state region?

Updated: May. 13, 2021 at 9:20 AM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. - AAA is expecting a busy Memorial Day travel period for two-state drivers, although some say not to expect much lower prices for gasoline in the next few days.

Colonial Pipeline — which runs right through the CSRA and provides much of the East Coast’s gasoline — 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.

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.

“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.

A national AAA spokeswoman was hopeful about the resumption of pipeline operations.

“The restart of the pipeline is very positive news for motorists,” said Jeanette McGee, AAA spokesperson. “While impact won’t be seen immediately and motorists in affected areas can expect to see a few more days of limited fuel supply, relief is coming. Station pumps will be full of fuel in several days. This is an especially good update ahead of the Memorial Day holiday.”

From the time the pipeline was taken offline on Friday until Thursday morning, the national gas price average increased 7 cents. The national average is likely to continue to see fluctuation in the coming days and states where prices have spiked will see some relief as the pipeline becomes fully operational.

For motorists traveling through the South and Southeast this weekend, AAA offers these tips:

  • If you own more than one car, use the most fuel-efficient model.
  • Plan ahead – bring groceries and other necessities with you to reduce making trips while you’re at your destination.
  • Fill up before getting to your destination. Use the AAA Mobile app to locate gas stations and call ahead to see if they have fuel.
  • Avoid driving during high-traffic times of day.
  • Pack lightly. Remove unnecessary and bulky items from your car and don’t use your roof rack or a special cargo carrier. It takes more fuel to accelerate a heavier car, and the reduction in fuel economy is greater for small cars than larger models.
  • Don’t travel with a container carrying extra fuel in your car.

Memorial Day travel outlook

Despite the pipeline disruption, AAA Travel expects a significant rebound in the number of Americans planning to travel this Memorial Day holiday weekend. From May 27-31, more than 37 million people are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home, an increase of 60% from last year when only 23 million traveled, the lowest on record since AAA began recording in 2000.

The expected strong increase in demand from last year’s holiday, which fell during the early phase of the pandemic, still represents 13%—or nearly 6 million—fewer travelers than in 2019. AAA urges those who choose to travel this year to exercise caution and take measures to protect themselves and others as the pandemic continues.

“As more people get the COVID-19 vaccine and consumer confidence grows, Americans are demonstrating a strong desire to travel this Memorial Day,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president, AAA Travel. “This pent-up demand will result in a significant increase in Memorial Day travel, which is a strong indicator for summer, though we must all remember to continue taking important safety precautions.”

AAA notes that the actual number of holiday travelers could fluctuate as we approach Memorial Day.

From reports by WRDW/WAGT and WCSC