2021 | News

Panic-driven gasoline shortage frustrates Montgomery County drivers

One driver reported seeing 10 sold-out stations on Thursday along Rockville Pike

share this

Cars were lined up to get gas at a Sunoco station on Rockville Pike Thursday afternoon.

Photo by Dan Schere

Some Montgomery County drivers were frustrated as they tried desperately to fill up their tanks on Thursday amidst a panic-fueled gas shortage on the East Coast following a cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline.

The Colonial Pipeline, which carries fuel between Texas and New York, was shut down last week following a ransomware attack.

The attack was initially not expected to affect fuel supply, The Washington Post reported, but gas stations along the East Coast have been experiencing shortages in the past week due to “panic buying,” or people buying in large quantities out of fear.

Colonial announced on Wednesday that it had restarted the pipeline.

As of Thursday afternoon, 36% of Maryland gas stations were reportedly without fuel, according to the Twitter feed of Patrick de Haan, a spokesman for GasBuddy, an application that helps customers find information about stations in their area.

At the Sunoco station at 1469 Rockville Pike, cars were lined up in the right lane of the southbound side as drivers waited their turn to fill up around 4 p.m.

Thursday. Alan Grimaldi, a Bethesda resident, said he went to 10 stations along Rockville Pike before finding one with gas.

“This is the only one that was open in this area. … Very frustrating,” he said.

Grimaldi said that he waited about 10 minutes in the gas line, which had shrunk during the day.

“When I went out about an hour ago, the line was about four blocks up [Rockville Pike]. Now it’s a block.”

Grimaldi said the panic buying has been “unfortunate,” but he hopes it blows over in a day or two.

“I saw pictures of people bringing 20-gallon cans to the gas station. That was absurd,” he said.

Louise Jones said she waited in line 10 to 15 minutes to get gas at the Sunoco, and at one point, another driver cut in front of her. She had previously been to six gas stations where the tanks were empty.

“My friend borrowed my car and left my tank almost empty, so I’ve been running around,” she said.

The Exxon at 7472 Wisconsin Ave. in Bethesda ran out of regular fuel on Wednesday and had run out of all gasoline except for diesel fuel by Thursday, cashier Hasnen Wale told Bethesda Beat. He said customers don’t understand what’s behind the panic.

“I mean, they’re asking why you don’t have gas? What’s the problem?” he said.

Gas had run out at a Shell station on Rockville Pike Thursday afternoon. Photo by Dan Schere.

At the Shell station at 1911 Rockville Pike, gas had run out as of Thursday afternoon.

Rockville resident Francisco Soto pulled into the parking lot with a quarter of a tank left after returning from his job in Washington, D.C.

Soto said he couldn’t find any stations with gas in D.C. and figured he would try to find one on his way home. In the event that he doesn’t find gas Thursday, Soto thinks he can make it one more day.

“Tomorrow yes. But I don’t know how bad it’s gonna be on the weekend. So, definitely I need to find a gas station today,” he said.

Soto said he was surprised by the panic buying phenomenon, and was reminded of the panic that often ensues at grocery stores during inclement weather.

“The same thing happens when it snows. We run out of paper towels and bread,” he said.

Dan Schere can be reached at daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com