Panicked Drivers in Southeast U.S. Swarm Pumps, Ignore Pleas to Stop Hoarding

ATLANTA (Reuters) — Drivers in the U.S. Southeast formed lines on Wednesday to fill up tanks from the dwindling number of retail gas stations with fuel to sell, disregarding government pleas for people not to hoard supplies as the shutdown of the main regional fuel pipeline entered its sixth day.

"If I don't have gas, I don't work," said Ronald Ross, 47, a DoorDash driver in Atlanta, as he fueled up his Chevy sedan.

Asked about government requests to avoid hoarding, he said: “Forget that. It's first come first serve. People have to look out for themselves. As long as they're peaceful and all."

Nearly 60% of gas stations in metro Atlanta were without gasoline on Wednesday, along with more than 70% of stations in metro Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina, and Pensacola, Florida tracking firm GasBuddy said.

The U.S. Southeast and Mid-Atlantic rely heavily on the Colonial Pipeline, which was shut by a ransomware hack on Friday and is expected to remain down for several more days.

The average national gasoline price, meanwhile, rose to above $3.00 a gallon on Wednesday, the highest since October 2014, the American Automobile Association said.

The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday called on Americans not to hoard fuel during the pipeline outage, saying panic buying would only intensify supply outages at service stations struggling to get new deliveries. It also warned Americans to not fill plastic bags with gasoline, after a Twitter post overnight showed someone doing that.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp temporarily suspended gas taxes in the state to ease the impact of the price hikes on consumers, and also asked citizens not to "panic buy."

James Jones, 48, a contractor in Atlanta, did not heed that call. He drove for miles looking for a retail station that was still operating Wednesday morning so he could load up two red five-gallon jerry cans for future use.

"I just went to five stations, finally I found one that still had gas," Jones said.

He had filled up his Chevy truck with gasoline Tuesday night, but got nervous and decided to get more. "Who knows when this will end, so I thought I'd better get mine," Jones said. "I need to keep my truck running."

A clerk at a Valero gas station in metro Atlanta said he had to shut down all 12 pumps Wednesday morning because there was no fuel left following a rush of buying.

The clerk, who declined to give his name because he was not authorized to talk to the media, said he does not know when they will get more gas.

"I can't get anyone on the phone," he said. "Our supplier doesn't even pick up anymore.”

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