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Gas shortages reach Charlottesville after Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack

Students report difficulty finding gas, stations across the area are out of fuel as many students prepare to return home

According to GasBuddy.com, 52 percent of gas stations across Virginia are out of fuel.
According to GasBuddy.com, 52 percent of gas stations across Virginia are out of fuel.

Many gas stations across the southeast, including in the Charlottesville area, are out of gas following a shortage caused by a ransomware attack on a major pipeline and subsequent panic buying by drivers. The shortage comes as many students are trying to leave Grounds as exams draw to a close while the Classes of 2020 and 2021 prepare to gather in Charlottesville to celebrate Final Exercises. 

GasBuddy.com, which is tracking the gas shortages across the eastern seaboard, states that 52 percent of all gas stations in Virginia are currently out of gas, second to only North Carolina, where 69 percent of stations are out of gas.

According to Gasbuddy’s Gasoline Availability Tool, numerous stations in the Charlottesville area are completely out of gas, with others only having limited fuel options. As of press time, at least nine stations were listed as being totally out of fuel or power.

University Spokesperson Brian Coy said that the University is monitoring the situation in a statement to The Cavalier Daily.

“We are taking steps to conserve and ration fuel so that University operations are minimally impacted,” Coy said. “Right now, our plans for graduation and other University operations are unaffected. We ask those who may be planning to travel to or from the University to monitor local conditions and, of course, to be sure they have enough fuel to complete the journey.” 

In posts on social media, University Housing and Residence Life also addressed the shortage. Prior to the cyberattack, all students were required to move out within 24 hours of their last exam or by 5 p.m. Saturday afternoon, whichever comes sooner.

“Housing & Residence Life shares student and family concerns about gas shortages and moving out of on-Grounds housing,” HRL’s post read. “Given the current circumstances and the state of emergency declared by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, we are monitoring this situation closely.” 

The post explained that students not already approved for Late Stay Housing — which allows students to remain in dorms after that 5 p.m. Saturday deadline — should still plan on departing by the original deadline. However, students without transportation can email housing@virginia.edu for an emergency late stay request. HRL is trying to respond to all late stay requests as quickly as possible.

The last day for Late Stay Housing is May 24, after which students approved to stay longer due to extenuating circumstances will be charged a daily fee of $29. 

Many students who are trying to return to their hometowns or head to the beach after the end of finals are struggling to find gas in the Charlottesville-Albemarle area. 

Third year Kinesiology student Noah Swisher spent more than an hour yesterday looking for gas after being warned by his family to get some immediately in advance of a family trip to the beach.

“I ended up going to six different stations — all of them had baggies or signs over every pump and said, ‘We're out, you can't use it,’” Swisher said.

Swisher eventually found gas that his engine could take at the sixth station he drove to, though it ran out as he was filling his car, leaving the tank just three-quarters full. 

“It was just absolutely insane — people were honking at each other, trying to get people to move out of the way,” Swisher said.

Some in the private Facebook group “UVA Parent Network” have expressed concerns about making it up to Charlottesville for Final Exercises.

“My fear is that If I actually can cobble up a tank of gas and start driving to C’ville for graduation that I can’t find gas along the way,” one parent wrote.

The Class of 2020’s special ceremony is set to occur May 16. The Class of 2021’s Final Exercises is set to take place from May 21 to May 23. 

The ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline was perpetrated by hacker group DarkSide, which is speculated to be based in Russia. The pipeline delivers 45 percent of the fuel to the East Coast, with the system running from Houston, Texas to Linden, N.J. This is the sixth day of the pipeline’s shutdown, though operations on the pipeline began to be restarted today around 5 p.m., a process that is expected to take several days.

In reaction to the shortage, Governor Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency Tuesday and issued Executive Order 78, which provides increased flexibility and funding for state and local governments to ensure adequate fuel supply.

“Today’s emergency declaration helps Virginia prevent and respond to gas shortages across the Commonwealth,” Northam said. “With this increased flexibility and funding, we can respond to this evolving situation and ensure access to fuel for Virginia motorists.”

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