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Gas shutdown sends Fairfax County drivers to the pumps as officials urge calm

An end to the nation’s gasoline supply anxieties is within sight, but not before fears of a shortage fueled a panic-buying frenzy throughout Virginia, including in Fairfax County.

The Colonial Pipeline Company announced yesterday afternoon (Wednesday) that it has restarted operations and is now in the process of delivering gas to individual markets.

“Following this restart, it will take several days for the product delivery supply chain to return to normal,” the company said in an update at 5:11 p.m.

A major gas and jet fuel source for the southern United States and much of the East Coast, the Colonial Pipeline shut down on Saturday (May 8) in response to a ransomware attack perpetrated by a criminal organization called DarkSide that’s likely based out of Eastern Europe.

On Tuesday, Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency in anticipation of disruptions to the supply chain that supports many Virginia retailers.

“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.

Within 24 hours, the travel app company GasBuddy calculated that 44% of gas stations in Virginia were out of gas, the highest percentage of any impacted state. That rate has now climbed to 55%, though the Commonwealth has been surpassed by North Carolina, where 71% of stations are reportedly running on empty, as of 9 a.m. today.

Fairfax County was not exempt from the fuel outages or the panic-buying that contributed to depleted gasoline supplies, as social media filled up with reports of stations running out of gas.

Drivers continually passed through an Exxon station at the corner of Maple Avenue and Branch Road in Vienna yesterday afternoon, only to be disappointed by the sight of “out of gas” signs posted on all of its pumps.

The owner told Tysons Reporter that the station had been out of gas since Tuesday, but they hoped more supplies would come within the next day.

The Exxon station at Hunter Woods Plaza in Reston was cut off from traffic by yellow caution tape as of 2:10 p.m. on Wednesday, according to local writer Addison Del Mastro, who added that the Exxon at the Fox Mill Shopping Center in Herndon was also out.

Readers told Reston Now, Tysons Reporter’s affiliate site, that Sunoco stations in the North Point Village Center and on South Lakes Drive near Twin Branches Road had also run out of fuel.

Stations that did have gas had either very long lines or were saving it for emergency vehicle use only.

The Mobil station on Maple Avenue and Park Street in Vienna had been crowded all day, a worker told Tysons Reporter around 5 p.m. yesterday. At that time, drivers pulled up to each pump as soon as the vehicle ahead of them finished filling up, and lines extended into the streets at both entrances to the station.

Meanwhile, local officials and agencies urged folks not to panic, horde gasoline, or to put gas in plastic bags, emphasizing that the shortages were expected to be temporary.

Fairfax County said that it did not anticipate any disruptions to government operations or services as a result of the pipeline shutdown.

“The county maintains its own fuel supply, which is distributed through 53 fueling sites, and receives regular deliveries,” the county said. “County operation plans take into account the possibility of temporary fuel shortages and price increases.”

Angela Woolsey contributed to this report.

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