Gasoline is now flowing north through the Colonial Pipeline, but panic-buying has many gas stations across the D.C. region without fuel.
As of 5:40 p.m. Friday, 81% of gas stations in the District, 45% of gas stations in Virginia and 39% of gas stations in Maryland were out gas, according to Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy.com.
“It’s a little sluggish out there. If you don’t need it, delay your purchases,” De Haan told WTOP. “The fuel’s flowing. But stations are having a tough time keeping up. Trucks are all over the place making deliveries. But again, if you don’t need fuel, try and delay it. Prices actually should go down a few cents over the next week.”
De Haan called it a “kind of self fulfilling prophecy that people see gas lines, they jump into them, everyone’s waiting. And it’s kind of like the panic sets in and the numbers continue to go up. Until we can kind of break that, it’s going to be tough to see the numbers go down much.”
Multiple people were seen by a WTOP reporter filling multiple gas canisters at a gas station in Fort Washington, Maryland.
Greg Tuttle, of Rockville, said he “picked the absolute wrong time to to run down on fuel.”
“We got our main main car, which my wife uses to commute, and unfortunately it’s been a game of scrambling to find fuel and crossing fingers that she can make it to work and back.”
Tuttle said they’ve been looking for gas at least twice a day the local stations.
“I just assumed folks were going to be a little more responsible than they were,” he said. “I was kind of surprised to see the amount of panic buying. So I saw that there could potentially be an issue but I just figured there might be a few folks out there that would make a run on it but it wouldn’t be too big of a deal, and boy was I wrong.”
De Haan warned that most of the “states/areas with outages have continued to see panicked buying, which is likely a contributing factor to the slow-ish recovery thus far. It will take a few weeks.”
Some D.C.-area gas stations told WTOP earlier this week that they expected to get gasoline shipments Friday or Saturday.
The Energy Department said gasoline availability should be back to normal within a few days.
In the meantime, officials have been warning people not to fill plastic bags with gasoline amid the panic.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission posted a flurry of tweets advising people not to carry gasoline in plastic bags or any other container not approved to carry fuel.
“Do not fill plastic bags with gasoline,” the agency tweeted Wednesday.
Do not fill plastic bags with gasoline.
— US Consumer Product Safety Commission (@USCPSC) May 12, 2021
“We know this sounds simple, but when people get desperate they stop thinking clearly,” the commission added. “They take risks that can have deadly consequences. If you know someone who is thinking about bringing a container not meant for fuel to get gas, please let them know it’s dangerous.”
Some relief is on the horizon.
“Terminals along the Colonial Pipeline are starting to see fuel arrivals in some of the hardest-hit areas. Downstream sources said that product is starting to arrive in Fairfax, Virginia, one of multiple terminals that saw both branded and unbranded run outs,” AAA Mid-Atlantic’s John Townsend told WTOP’s John Domen.
Since people keep panic buying, The Virginia Department of Fire Programs, a state agency that provides training, support services, and resources to more than 700 of the Commonwealth’s fire departments, is offering tips for safely dispensing and storing gasoline in portable containers.
President Joe Biden said U.S. officials don’t believe the Russian government was involved in the hack of the Colonial Pipeline but “do have strong reason to believe that the criminals who did the attack are living in Russia.”
- GasBuddy’s interactive fuel finder
- Virginia offers advice for storing gas — if you really need to
- Colonial Pipeline did pay ransom to hackers, sources now say
- Tech audit of Colonial Pipeline found ‘glaring’ problems
- America’s gas panic has a long history
- Biden team moves swiftly to tackle pipeline political peril
The Colonial Pipeline stretches from Texas to New Jersey and delivers about 45% of the gasoline consumed on the East Coast.
“We are not out of the woods yet, but the trees are thinning out,” Richard Joswick, global head of oil analytics at S&P Global Platts, said.
How to report problems
Residents are encouraged to report any scams fraud, price gouging or other unfair business practices in D.C. to the Office of Consumer Protection vial email at firstname.lastname@example.org, calling 202-442-9828 or texting 202-738-5212. Those interested in submitting a complaint can find more information on the D.C. attorney general’s website.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring encouraged drivers to report suspected price gouging to the state’s Consumer Protection Section at email@example.com or by calling 800-552-9963. A complaint form is also available on the attorney general’s website.
The Virginia Emergency Support Team will host a virtual briefing about the situation at 3 p.m. Thursday.
Maryland’s Office of Consumer Protection has information on consumer protections online.
WTOP’s Colleen Kelleher, John Domen and The Associated Press contributed to this report.