Hurricane Florence: Gas stations running out of fuel

Gasoline shortages continued to spread Friday in states impacted by Hurricane Florence, as more than half of stations in some North Carolina cities were out of fuel.

Evacuations along the East Coast and “panic buying” among consumers worried about running out of fuel for cars and generators have contributed to shortages in parts of North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. The worst outages could be found in Wilmington, North Carolina, where an estimated 56 percent of gas stations had run out of fuel by Friday afternoon, according to GasBuddy. In the Greenville-New Bern-Washington market, 52 percent of stations were without fuel.

Shortages were less widespread in Charlotte (7.5 percent) and the Greensboro area (9.25 percent).

In South Carolina, about one quarter of gas stations in Charleston and the Myrtle Beach-Florence market were out of fuel. Cities in Virginia appeared to be well-stocked with fuel, with the Norfolk area (7.5 percent) showing the worst outages. Reports showed only a small percentage of Georgia gas stations had run out.

Despite these shortages, gasoline prices held steady. Prices across North Carolina are up 4.3 cents compared to last week, hitting an average of $2.685 per gallon, according to GasBuddy. South Carolina’s pump prices rose just 0.2 cents per gallon over the same period.

Analysts are keeping a close eye on the status of the Colonial Pipeline, which is key to maintaining robust fuel supplies along the East Coast.

Colonial Pipeline Co., which operates the largest fuel pipeline in the U.S., said it completed preparations to protect the system before Hurricane Florence arrived. The Colonial Pipeline continued to operate as normal Friday, as the storm made its way inland across the Carolina coast.

The pipeline, which runs from Houston to the New York Harbor, is the main method of transporting gasoline, diesel and other fuels from Gulf Coast refineries to East Coast markets. The system is located underground, but flooding or power outages could impact pumping stations. During Hurricane Harvey, the Colonial Pipeline shut down because the massive storm brought refining operations in Texas to a halt.

Florence made landfall Friday morning in North Carolina. It was moving slowly along the coast later in the day, bringing sustained winds of 80 mph, heavy rain and flooding to the area. Thousands of homes were without power, and emergency officials have warned of significant flooding inland.