Colonial Pipeline is restarting but the gas crisis isn’t over

The Colonial Pipeline is back in action after a six-day shutdown, but widespread gas station outages in the Southeast could linger for days.

Industry executives and government officials warned it will take time to refill gasoline supplies depleted by panic-buying, a truck driver shortage and the ransomware attack on the pipeline.

As of 7 a.m. ET Thursday, a staggering 71% of the gas stations in North Carolina and 55% in Virginia were without gasoline, according to GasBuddy, a platform that tracks fuel demand, prices and outages. And 49% of the stations in Georgia are without gas.

That means all three states only saw “limited overnight improvement” in the availability of gas, according to Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy.

GasBuddy reported major outages in Washington DC (47%), South Carolina (54%), Florida (31%), Tennessee (34%) and Maryland (34%).

Major cities including Atlanta, Charlotte, Myrtle Beach and Raleigh are seeing “some” improvement in outages, De Haan wrote on Twitter.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said the Colonial Pipeline indicated Thursday morning that the restart of the pipeline “went well” overnight.

“This should mean things will return to normal by the end of the weekend,” Granholm wrote on Twitter.

One issue is that the 5,500-mile pipeline flows at just 5 miles per hour, meaning it could take days or even weeks for gasoline, diesel and jet fuel to flow through to most places and refill nearly empty storage, Platts analysts said.

“We are not out of the woods yet, but the trees are thinning out,” Richard Joswich, global head of oil analytics at S&P Global Platts, wrote in an email.

At the same time, a massive shortage of truck drivers is snarling the delivery of badly needed fuel to stations in the Southeast.

Oil industry executives pleaded with Americans on Wednesday not to hoard gasoline, warning that panic-buying is exacerbating the situation. Officials said some gas stations blew through days’ worth of inventory in mere hours.