Business owners who rely on fuel to function say panic buying could hurt their industry


TRI-CITIES, Tenn. (WJHL) — There are concerns about rising prices and available fuel supply after a pipeline that delivers about 45% of the fuel used on the East Coast of the United States remains shut down following a cyberattack.

Packed pumps have become a common sight across the Tri-Cities as people panic buy in response to the shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline. However, panic buyers are becoming the bigger problem, according to officials with AAA.

“It removes that gasoline out of the market and more than likely if you are buying more gasoline than what you need, you’re likely not going to be able to use that and go through that gasoline in the short term,” said AAA spokesperson Megan Cooper.

Officials with Food City held a press conference Tuesday afternoon in reference to the shortage stating they have gas, but if panic buying continues, they could run into some shortages. However, overall, they aren’t worried.

“We’ve got fuel that will hopefully last through today in most stores, maybe not all. Into tomorrow, we’ll have deliveries that will get to the stores tomorrow,” said Food City President and CEO Steve Smith.

The potential shortage isn’t just worrying individuals, but for businesses that rely on gas to operate, the lack of gas available is an issue for their business.

“We probably go through a couple of hundred dollars a day. We’ve got three crews mowing, landscaping and trees as well. It’s a fair amount because diesel trucks consume a lot of fuel, mowers, as well as the other equipment,” said the Owner of Atta Boy Lawns LLC Michael Dlugos.

Cole Grayless, a subcontractor who buries cable for TV and internet providers from Galax to Newport said gas is a crucial part of doing the job.

“We probably go through 30-40 gallons in each truck so probably about $450 to $500 a day in fuel,” said Grayless.

Grayless said on Tuesday morning he struggled to find gas among the panic buyers and he worries this could put him and others who rely heavily on fuel out of business.

“If people would just understand that it’s not just about them getting fuel, and what it’s doing to everyone else, it would make a huge difference I think,” said Grayless.

Employers are worried about what a lasting shortage could mean for their businesses. “I’ve got to make payroll. If I can’t run my business, I’ve got people who depend on me for a paycheck. I’ve got a great staff and I worry about what a shortage could mean for them and their families,” said the Owner of Lawn Care & More John Bushong.

Officials with AAA urge people to stop panic buying and only buy the fuel they need if they need any at all. Cooper said if people only buy what they need, a shortage will not be an issue in the time before the pipeline is back online.

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