4 North Carolina Counties Shift Students to Remote Learning Amid Gas Shortage

Four counties in North Carolina announced a shift for students to remote learning in five local school systems on Thursday amid a gas shortage after a cyberattack hit the nation's largest gasoline pipeline, the Colonial Pipeline, on May 7 and caused it to shut down operations.

Five school systems in Durham, Franklin, Vance and Wake counties canceled in-person learning on Friday, and will continue remote learning until the gas shortage is solved. North Carolina is among a few states that have been most impacted by gas shortages and tracking service GasBuddy.com revealed more than 70 percent of the southern state's stations were out of fuel.

Parents of students attending the Wake County school system received an email that discussed "the impact of the gas shortage on staffing availability and student transportation."

Roughly 45 percent of the East Coast's gasoline comes from the Colonial Pipeline, which spans from Texas to New Jersey.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Out of Service Gas Station
An out of service bag covers a pump handle at a gas station May 12, 2021 in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Most stations in the area along I-95 are without fuel following the Colonial Pipeline hack. The 5,500 mile long pipeline delivers a large percentage of fuel on the East Coast from Texas up to New York. At least five school systems in Durham, Franklin, Vance and Wake counties announced a shift to remote learning Thursday due to the gas shortage. Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Gas shortages at the pumps are spreading from the South to the Mid-Atlantic states, where Virginia and the District of Columbia have become some of the hardest-hit areas.

The tracking service GasBuddy.com on Friday showed that 86 percent of gas stations were out of fuel in Washington, D.C., more than half were out in Virginia and 42 percent of Maryland stations were dry. More than half of stations were tapped out in Georgia and South Carolina.

A gas station owner in Virginia said panic buying is the problem.

"It's like a frenzy," Barry Rieger, who owns a gas station in Burke, Virginia, told WJLA-TV.

Georgia-based Colonial Pipeline on Thursday reported making "substantial progress" in resolving the computer hack-induced shutdown. It said operations had restarted and gasoline deliveries were being made in all of its markets. It will take "several days" for things to return to normal, and some areas may experience "intermittent service interruptions during this start-up period," the company said.

Businesses were also feeling the sting.

At Dixie Speedway in Woodstock, Georgia, all the maintenance and safety vehicles have to be filled up before stock-car racing the next two Saturdays, but "all the gas stations close to us -- within a mile of us -- are out of gas," said Mia Green, the track's general manager. She's heard of at least a couple of racetracks in the region that canceled upcoming races this weekend because race crews might not be able to get there due to gas shortages.

A cyberattack by hackers who lock up computer systems and demand a ransom to release them hit the pipeline on May 7. The hackers didn't take control of the pipeline's operations, but Colonial shut it down to contain the damage.

President Joe Biden said U.S. officials do not believe the Russian government was involved in the hack. But he added, "We do have strong reason to believe that the criminals who did the attack are living in Russia. That's where it came from."

"We are not out of the woods yet, but the trees are thinning out," Richard Joswick, global head of oil analytics at S&P Global Platts, said.

Gas stations should be back to normal next week if the pipeline restart goes as planned and consumers are convinced they no longer need to panic-buy fuel, Joswick said. Full recovery would take several more weeks, he estimated.