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Updated: Officials say there's plenty of gas, but Wilmington drivers are still stocking up

Gassin' up
Benjamin Schachtman
On Tuesday afternoon, gas stations around Wilmington (and the state, and beyond) were jammed with drivers filling up their tanks and spare gas containers.

Starting Tuesday morning, traffic started backing up around Wilmington-area gas stations. While officials say there’s no actual gas shortage, that hasn’t stopped many from stocking up — nor has it stopped stations from running out of fuel as part of a supply 'crunch' caused in part by panic buying.

Despite considerable wait times, drivers at the Shell station on North Third in downtown Wilmington were in good spirits on Tuesday afternoon. Most were there because they feared stations would jack up prices, or run out of gas after the Colonial Pipeline was shut down -- but officials, including Gov. Roy Cooper, have noted that there are adequate supplies for the time being.

Cooper also declared a State of Emergency on Monday, loosening regulations and allowing more fuel trucks to hit the roads. On social media, Cooper said he was working with federal officials to get the pipeline back open.

While it hasn’t given specifics, Colonial says it expects most operations to be back online by the week’s end. Based on that, New Hanover County Chair Julia Olson Boseman said on Tuesday that she was not issuing a State of Emergency, but urged residents to avoid “panic purchasing.” (You can find the county statement here.) Brunswick and Pender counties made similar pleas — and Pender did issue a State of Emergency. (More on that from Port City Daily, here).

“New Hanover County is prepared to respond to this fuel shortage, and has plans in place to ensure services continue,” Olson-Boseman said. “Considering Colonial Pipeline has stated they expect the pipeline to be reopened by the end of the week I am not issuing a State of Emergency at this time, but should the situation change, we may choose to do so. I encourage residents to avoid panic purchasing fuel because that drives the shortage, and to conserve fuel by limiting non-essential outings.”

Gassin' up some more
Benjamin Schachtman
Vehicles waiting to gas up backed up down Wrightsville Avenue towards Eastwood Road on Tuesday morning.

On Tuesday, experts said spot shortages were possible for jet and diesel fuel -- but not gasoline. However, U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm has since acknowledged a supply 'crunch' on the East Coast, including North Carolina — the result of panic buying and stocking up (or hoarding).

Price increases from 3 to 10 cents are already being seen, although the full effect may be delayed. (Find more from WFAE in Charlotte here and from NPR: What we know about the ransomware attack on a critical U.S. pipeline.)

According to GasBuddy, a web and app company that tracks gas prices in real-time, Wilmington’s gas stations were well-stocked on Tuesday afternoon; by Tuesday evening, that had changed significantly, with the vast majority of stations having limited options or having had run out completely. (You can find a map of availability and outages here.)

And a reminder, while there’s no need to stockpile gasoline, if you do fill additional containers, the CDC, and other health agencies, remind you that it’s not safe to fill them in the beds of pickup trucks or the trunks of cars.