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Panic buying strikes Southeastern United States as shuttered pipeline resumes operations

Gas stations in the Southeastern U.S. saw long lines on May 10, as Colonial Pipeline tries to restore operations following a ransomware attack. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Dustin Chambers/The Washington Post)

An earlier version of this article said that Colonial Pipeline had decided not to pay a ransom demanded by foreign hackers, citing two people familiar with the matter. In fact, Colonial had already paid, the company’s chief executive told the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday. This version has been corrected.

A sudden fuel shortage worsened across the eastern half of the United States on Wednesday after a cyberattack crippled a major pipeline, as long lines, sharp words and pumps gone dry greeted unhappy drivers from the Alabama foothills to the Chesapeake Bay.

Although government and industry officials said the nation had plenty of fuel and the pipeline was set to resume operations in the evening, nervous drivers clogged gas stations and created shortages in parts or all of 11 states. At least 12,000 gas stations reported being completely empty, and the squeeze pushed the price of a gallon past $3, its highest in years.

The crisis was man-made — first by the ransomware attack on the systems of Colonial Pipeline that led the company to shut down its pipeline connecting Texas to New Jersey, then by a panic that led drivers to fill up out of fear the country could run out of gas.  

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Colonial Pipeline attack: The cyberattack shut down The Colonial Pipeline system, which moves about 45 percent of the East Coast’s fuel

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FAQ: What you need to know about the gas shortage

Map: Gas stations impacted by the cyberattack

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Tell The Post: How has the gas shortage impacted you?