PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Gas stations in Hampton Roads and northeast North Carolina have run out of fuel or are reporting high demand for gas after the recent cyber attack on the Colonial Pipeline.

The pipeline, which runs from Texas to New York and supplies about 45% of all fuel on the East Coast, was hit with a ransomware attack over the weekend from Russia-linked hacking group DarkSide.

While the pipeline itself wasn’t physically damaged, it was shut down as a proactive measure, leading to a disruption of getting gas to the gas station tanks.

Check gas availability here via GasBuddy

Old Dominion Economist Bob McNab said consumers are the ones making the problem worse.

“Just like the toilet paper shortage of 2020 [consumers] are responding to fear and uncertainty by going out and buying gasoline and then everybody else is buying gasoline as a response,” McNab said. “It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Colonial Pipeline said it’s looking to restore service by the end of the week.

President Joe Biden says there’s no evidence so far Russia was behind the attack, but said Russia “has some responsibility” to deal with attacks originating from its soil.

DarkSide has said it’s apolitical and wasn’t interested in causing major disruption, only in making money. They develop and market ransomware hacking tools, and then sell them to other criminals, CNBC reports.

“We are apolitical, we do not participate in geopolitics, do not need to tie us with a defined government and look for our motives,” their statement said. “Our goal is to make money, and not creating problems for society. From today we introduce moderation and check each company that our partners want to encrypt to avoid social consequences in the future.”

In the meantime, the Department of Transportation has issued an emergency declaration to increase distribution of fuel in the 17 states and District of Columbia that are affected, allowing drivers to accrue more overtime and drive with less sleep that normal restrictions allow.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam also declared a state of emergency Tuesday to address gas supply disruptions, allowing state agencies to issue their own waivers.

Northam says the order allows increased flexibility and funding for state and local governments to ensure adequate fuel supply, and activates the Virginia Emergency Operations Center and Virginia Emergency Support Team.

“This emergency declaration will help the Commonwealth prepare for any potential supply shortages and ensure Virginia motorists have access to fuel as we respond to this evolving situation,” said Northam. “While current gasoline reserves in the Commonwealth are
sufficient to address immediate supply concerns, a long-term disruption in the pipelines will
require transportation of fuel and other oil-derivatives via interstate and state roadways.”

The order, which is in effect until June 10 unless it’s rescinded earlier, also activates §59.1-525 et seq. of state code related to price gouging.

Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story said the base commander has directed fuel rationing at the NEX gas station until further notice. Pumps won’t give customers more than $40 in has, and fueling recreational vehicles such as boats, jet skis and RVs and external gas containers is prohibited.

In the meantime, Newport News Shipbuilding has made some changes for employees as gas shortages may continue locally.

  • •Supervisors have been asked to allow employees who are able to work from home to do so until the gas issue resolves, which could be into next week.
  • NNS employees who must work onsite are encouraged to rideshare. Beginning on the first shift Thursday, May 13, NNS will offer premium parking for any vehicle with a NNS hangtag that has three or more riders in certain parking lots. The parking areas will be clearly marked with group rider signs. Shipyard security will enforce the special parking for the first two hours of each shift. After that, they will be open to any vehicle with a Zone A hangtag.
    • North Yard (between van and handicap spaces near the ATM machine)
    • Lot at 50th Street Gate (between 49th and 50th streets)
    • Lot between 43rd and 44th Street at Washington Avenue
    • In front of Building 520 (41st Street and Washington Avenue.
  • The NNS shuttle service between 1:30 a.m. and 5 a.m., as well as buses to the NNS Vaccination Site, are suspended immediately. Employees impacted by these changes who need transportation services should call NNS Taxi Services at (757) 846-7730. Employees traveling during work shifts are encouraged to minimize fuel consumption by walking or biking.
  • Non-essential business travel will be postponed through May 14.

BELOW: Chopper 10 flies over busy gas stations in Virginia Beach on May 11, 2021.

The U.S. had already been dealing with a shortage of tanker truck drivers that has led to higher gas prices.

Virginia’s average gas price has gone up 3 cents at the beginning of the week to $2.76, and could go up another 6 or 7 cents this week.

So far people in the Kempsville area of Virginia Beach said they’ve had to go to multiple gas stations to find fuel. Some pumps read they were out of order on Tuesday.

“I got everything filled up but it was pretty crazy so ultimately I went to five places before I was able to get gas,” said Tom Baird.

Baird owns a lawn care service company so he relies heavily on gas for his business.

“I’ve got enough to last me for about two days but by the time we get to Thursday, if there’s no more gas, I can’t work,” Baird said.

Viewers in Ahoskie, North Carolina, also said they were having trouble finding gas, and Chopper 10 got footage of longer lines at the Walmart on Tidewater Drive in Norfolk. Some viewers said that spot is usually good for cheaper gas so demand could be higher there.

Drivers we talked to said the attack is eye opening.

“I think overall it just kind of shows a dependency that we have on oil itself,” said Jordan Miller.

Others said it raises concerns about system vulnerabilities for every day resources.

“The whole electronic age has brought in a whole different type of corruption in society,” said Anthony Lemaster.

“It’s scary to think, you know where we’re at if they’re hacking in our ability to get gas. I mean, where does that leave us,” Baird said.

The good news is there’s no shortage of gas in the U.S., per Martha Meade with AAA Midatlantic, there’s just the issue of getting that gas to the pumps.

Meade is encouraging people not to panic buy, but says it’s crucial for the pipeline to be restored, as it can take about 15-18 days for gas to go from Texas to New York.

“Make sure you have gas in your tank but do not panic buy,” Meade said, “because we know and as we have seen with the pandemic panic buying can certainly cause a shortage that sometimes might not have been there in the past.”

Drivers are encouraged to do the following to help save fuel:

  • Drive with the window down to keep the air conditioning to a minimum
  • Use the car to run multiple errands all in one trip.
  • Remove heavy objects from the car before driving, because it takes more gas to power a heavier vehicle

Seeing no fuel or high demand in your neck of the woods? Email reportit@wavy.com.