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Running on empty

Some area gas stations are running out of fuel after a ransomware attack to the Colonial Pipeline system led to gas shortages across the commonwealth prompting Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam to declare a state of emergency Tuesday afternoon, May 11.

On Tuesday, Northam, according to a release distributed at 2 p.m., signed Executive Order 78, declaring a state of emergency in Virginia to address gasoline supply disruptions following a May 7 ransomware cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline system, a primary fuel source for several Virginia retailers. The attack resulted in a temporary shutdown of the pipeline.

According to the release, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued a temporary fuel transportation waiver in order to increase the supply of gasoline. Northam’s declaration allows state agencies to issue their own waivers as required by the state and provides flexibility and funding for both state and local governments to ensure fuel supply is adequate.

“This emergency declaration will help the commonwealth prepare for any potential supply shortages and ensure Virginia motorists have access to fuel as we respond to this evolving situation,” Northam said.

While areas in eastern Virginia were seeing the brunt of fuel shortages as the week started, gas stations in Farmville began running out of gasoline Tuesday in what some local station managers described as an example of panic buying.

Tammy Barker, manager of JW’s Express on East Third Street, confirmed Tuesday afternoon the station had run out of gasoline around 2 p.m. She added customers, many of which she does not typically see at the station, arrived in the early morning in hopes of filling up the tank.

“Before we opened this morning, they were lined up at the pump,” she said.

Barker said JW’s four gas pumps were busy all afternoon up until the last drop was purchased, adding some customers were worried about a potential gas shortage after hearing of the ransomware attacks. The last time JW’s ran out of gas was during February’s brutal ice storms that left some residents without power for weeks.

Barker said Tuesday afternoon she did not have an estimation as to how long the station would be out of gasoline.

Over on the west end of Third Street, Genise Gould, team leader of the Valero gas station/Fas Mart convenience store, said her location ran out of gas earlier that morning before getting a new delivery in the afternoon.

“We were out this morning,” Gould recalled. “We just got gas maybe about 12-12:30 p.m.”

Gould said Valero was also flooded with customers throughout the day.

“We have seen a large amount of people, people just panicking.”

While the hubbub meant the station experienced long lines Tuesday, Gould said luckily there weren’t many customers who came inside the store to purchase their gas, helping to keep the disarray from seeping indoors.

“You don’t need to panic,” Gould advised. “If you’re without (gasoline), then you’ll be sitting at home, and that’s the safest thing to do with the coronavirus out right now.”

Gould did not have an estimation Tuesday afternoon as to how much longer the station would have fuel in stock.