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Colonial Pipeline Hack Sparks Fears Of Shortages In Tallahassee

 Stations across Tallahassee are running out of gas amid rumors of a gas shortage due to the cyber attack on a major pipeline
Lynn Hatter
Stations across Tallahassee are running out of gas amid rumors of a gas shortage due to the cyber attack on a major pipeline

The cyber-attack that brought down a pipeline that supplies 45% of the fuel to the U.S. East Coast is impacting Tallahassee and other parts of North Florida. By Monday afternoon, lines of vehicles stretched into roadways as rumors of gas shortages spread.

“People are hearing there’s an outage on this pipeline and are racing to the pumps to top off their tanks," said AAA Spokesman Mark Jenkins. "If everyone goes to the gas station at one time, that creates a huge strain on existing supplies, even if there isn’t a supply-problem. If everyone rushes to the gas station at one time, that’s going to cause the gas station to run out of fuel.”

Florida is predominantly supplied by tanker ships which unload fuel at ports. But parts of the state, like the Capital City, get gas from places like Bainbridge, Georgia, where Colonial has a supply line. One local gas distributor told WFSU the company couldn’t get some of its trucks out due to problems in Bainbridge.

“If they [gas stations] were relying on Bainbridge, then odds are there’s going to have to be trucks directed from somewhere else to help offset the shortage," Jenkins said.

The Colonial Pipeline runs from Texas to Maryland. Cyber-attacks are growing in frequency and infrastructure has increasingly become a target, though the attack on Colonial may be a first, said Jenkins.

“It’s very serious and not something I’m aware of happening in the past, in terms of a cyber-hack of a pipeline. We’ve had pipeline leaks, power outages…but never really a cyber-attack.”

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said her office is aware of the supply issues emerging in North Florida. The crunch, she said, is due to panic-buying and a shortage of truck drivers for fuel trucks.

"Know that we are in close contact with federal and state agencies and the petroleum industry on this situation. But most importantly don't panic to buy gas. Don't horde gas. And don't form long lines at gas stations..." Fried said in a video statement released to social media.

Colonial says its restarting the pipeline in phases with "the goal of substantially restoring operational service by the end of the week."

Copyright 2021 WFSU

Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas. She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. When she’s not working, Lynn spends her time watching sci-fi and action movies, writing her own books, going on long walks through the woods, traveling and exploring antique stores. Follow Lynn Hatter on Twitter: @HatterLynn.