By Stephanie Kelly
NEW YORK (Reuters) – The U.S. capital was running out of gas on Friday, even as the country’s largest fuel distribution network increased deliveries after a cyberattack and Washington authorities assured drivers that the supplies will return to normal soon.
The closure of the Colonial Pipeline for six days is the most disruptive cyberattack to date and has exposed the vulnerability of vital US infrastructure to cybercriminals.
Widespread panic buying continued two days after the pipeline network restarted, leaving service stations across the southeastern United States without gas, even in areas far from the system.
Prices at the pumps are at their highest level in years, two weeks before the peak summer driving season begins, when traffic increases. The national average price of gasoline has risen to nearly $ 3.04, the most expensive since October 2014, the American Automobile Association said.
The shortage at gas stations in Washington, DC, rose to 87% on Friday, up from 79% the day before, the tracking firm GasBuddy said. President Joe Biden assured drivers that supplies should begin to return to normal this weekend.
“Most of these outage states / areas have continued to experience panic buying, which is likely a contributing factor to the slow recovery thus far,” said Patrick De Haan of GasBuddy. “It will take a few weeks.”
Colonial Pipeline announced late Thursday that it had restarted its entire pipeline system linking refineries on the Gulf of Mexico coast with markets along the East Coast.
Some states saw modest improvements, but there were still cuts. About 70% of gas stations in North Carolina were out of gas, with about 50% of gas stations in Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia being cut off.
(Additional reporting by Jessica Resnick-Ault and Joseph Menn; edited in Spanish by Carlos Serrano)