A gasoline shortage began to grip metro Atlanta on May 11 as people hoarded fuel in the wake of a cyberattack that shut down a major pipeline system. 

The May 7 attack by hackers who sought a ransom for hijacked data affected the Alpharetta-based Colonial Pipeline company, whose network runs between Texas and New York, including pipelines running across the metro Atlanta area. Colonial resumed operation of the pipeline on the afternoon of May 12, Colonial Pipeline initiated the restart of pipeline operations Wednesday at approximately 5 p.m., but said on its website that it will take several days for the product delivery supply chain to return to normal. Federal and state officials implored motorists not to panic-buy or hoard gasoline. However, many people were not heeding that advice as fuel prices topped $3 a gallon at many stations for the first time in years.

Vehicles line up on Peachtree Road in Brookhaven on the afternoon of May 12 for fuel at a Chevron station amid panic-buying sparked by a pipeline shutdown. (Joshua Crowder)

Brookhaven’s Peachtree Road corridor was the scene of lines and shortages on May 11. The Costco Wholesale in the Town Brookhaven shopping center reportedly had long lines at the pumps, then had its gas station shut down by late afternoon, though it was open again the next morning.

The Chevron at 4234 Peachtree Road in Brookhaven had every pump occupied on the afternoon of May 12. (Joshua Crowder)

A Chevron at 4234 Peachtree Road had a line roughly 10 cars deep that afternoon for gas selling at $3.19 and nine-tenths of a cent per gallon of regular. One customer filling up her car said she waited about 10 minutes at the Chevron after finding another local station out of gas. She said she just needed to fill up her tank, not buy extra, and thought the situation was similar to last year’s pandemic toilet-paper hoarding.

“As soon as it hit the news and everything, I feel like everyone’s just panicking…,” she said of the pipeline shutdown and gas-buying. “I’m a second-grade teacher and even my students are talking about it.”

A customer fills up the tank in Brookhaven. (Joshua Crowder)

Gov. Brian Kemp signed an executive order May 11 to temporarily suspend the gas tax in Georgia and announced that the state is increasing the weight limits for trucks transporting fuel, providing more supply for stations as they receive deliveries. The order also prohibits price gouging at the pumps. 

Another view of the line for gas at the Chevron on Brookhaven’s Peachtree Road. (Joshua Crowder)

GasBuddy has launched a tracker at tracker.gasbuddy.com to show which stations still have fuel in Atlanta. As of May 12, the tracker showed some stations throughout local communities completely without fuel, and many more with “limited fuel options.”

Photos and reporting by Joshua Crowder. Bob Pepalis contributed.

Update: This story has been updated with information about Colonial Pipeline’s resumption of operations.

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.