‘This is the only place I could find any right now’: Fuel stations running dry as drivers rush to pumps amid gas frenzy

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KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) — A pipeline shutdown continues to fuel concern in our area and on much of the East Coast.

Despite assurances the Colonial Pipeline will be back online by the end of the week and continued pleas to stop unnecessary panic buying, drivers continue to rush the pumps triggering shortages at some stations in our area.

Colonial Pipeline is back in action Wednesday night after shutting down due to a cyberattack, however, panic buying during the fuel crisis continues to drive up prices at the pump.

This is familiar territory for many as this time last year, the nation dealt with a toilet paper and cleaning wipes shortage.

Some gas locations are getting ahead of the game by trying to curb any kind of panic buying.

Take Food City’s Gas’N’Go for example: A company spokesperson told us they are limiting customers to one car fill-up and one 5-gallon gas can fill-up per buyer.

The company released this statement:

“Due to continuing limited fuel supply as a result of the Colonial Pipeline cyber-attack, we are currently limiting fuel purchases to filling up vehicles and one 5-gallon gas can per customer. Unfortunately, due to current supply we will not allow the sale of fuel for multiple gas cans or drums. We apologize for the inconvenience.”

K-VA-T Food Stores, Inc.

We caught up with drivers in Kingsport about their thoughts on the gas frenzy.

“No gas,” Blackwater, Virginia resident Robin Stapleton explained with a big sigh.

Gas stations are running dry after drivers make mad dashes to their local fuel station, but some are having to travel miles to do so.

“This is the only place I could find any right now,” Stapleton said. “As you can see, it looks like it’s running out too. It looks like.”

Signs of “out of service” and “out” have been placed at various gas pumps at Quality Plus gas station in Kingsport.

“Where I live at is $2.89, $2.99. Actually, this is the cheapest place I have found so far. I have been to two other places that are out of gas,” Stapleton said.

Robin Stapleton who made the 40-mile trek from Blackwater, Virginia, fears many will begin to hoard gas if the fuel shortage becomes long-term.

“There’s people out there getting their gas cans filled up. Stuff like that. We saw on the news that one guy had a clear plastic water container. He was filling that up and stuff like that, and I just don’t think it’s fair. Everybody needs gas,” Stapleton said.

This is familiar territory for Kingsport resident Bonnie Fletcher, as she recalls a similar situation about a year ago.

“I supposed similar to the toilet paper issue,” Fletcher said.

She hoped by filling her car up on Wednesday she would be planning ahead for what’s to come.

“I just think we as a people in general panic, tend to panic for really no reason at all,” Fletcher said. “I think we’re going to be taken care of.”

News Channel 11 also reached out to the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office about any complaints about price gouging, in the state. The office stated it had received eight price gouging complaints related to gas prices so far.

According to the office, Tennessee’s price gouging statute is only activated when a state of emergency or economic disruption is declared.

Right now, an emergency has not been declared.

While the long lines at gas stations and prices increase, Dr. Emmett Tracy, the dean of the School of Business at Emory & Henry College, said he does not anticipate the gas shortage becoming long-term.

“It’s very important to recognize here that at this point looks short-term, looks isolated. We’re not even talking about something that is nationwide. We are certainly feeling it here but there is no reason to think that this is going to be a long economic issue,” Tracy said.

Though, right now, drivers who can find gas are paying more.

According to AAA, Wednesday’s national average price per gallon is $3.00; the highest it has been in nearly seven years.

In Johnson City, Wednesday’s average price per gallon is $2.83; up 9 cents from Tuesday.

Kingsport and Bristol’s average price per gallon is nearly $2.80; up 7 cents from Tuesday.

If you pay way more than that, and you suspect price gouging, state officials want to hear from you. They ask that you file a complaint with the Tennessee Division of Consumer Affairs.

How to file a complaint:

Use the instructions below to file a consumer complaint with the Tennessee Division of Consumer Affairs online. Or if you prefer, you can print the attached complaint form and mail it to the PO Box listed on the top of the form or you can scan and email it to the email address listed on the top of the form.

To file a complaint online:

  • Visit https://core.tn.gov
  • Select “File a Complaint” in the upper right corner
  • Review the disclaimer that indicates complaints are public record
  • Select “Continue as Guest”
  • Select “Consumer Affairs” for both the Board and the License Type
  • Fill in the requested information and submit the complaint
  • Once processed, the complaint will be sent to the business along with a request for a response.

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