Photo: David Goldman/AP

It’s been ten days since an investigator discovered a pipeline that carries some 40 percent of the East Coast’s gasoline had burst in Alabama. A quarter million gallons of leaked gas later, the South is still stuck in a fuel shortage. Towns run dry. Prices through the roof. Empty Camaros strewn across the land. Well, here’s what’s going on now.

If you’ve struggled to gas up your vee-hicle anywhere in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina or South Carolina, you already know how serious this all is. But for you and everyone else here’s a guide to what happened, what’s been going on and what’s being done to get the South back on the road.


Who Discovered The Broken Pipeline?

While out searching for the source of a strong gas odor near a mining pit approximately 30 miles south of Birmingham, Alabama, an inspector spotted a leak in the Colonial Pipeline Company’s Line 1, a three-foot wide conduit that transports 1.3 million barrels of gas each day from Houston, along the southeast, and all the way to New Jersey, The LA Times says.

How Much Fuel Was Spilled?

Upon hearing of the spill, the Colonial Pipeline Company immediately shut down the line, and began assessing the damage. The Associated Press says the company discovered that between 252,000 and 336,000 gallons of fuel had poured into a retention pond. To put that figure in perspective, that’s enough gas to fuel at least, and this is a rough estimate, four Ram pickups.


Was There Any Environmental Damage?

That retention pond, The LA Times says, lies just upstream of a national wildlife refuge. But because Alabama is in the midst of a drought and nearby creek beds are dry, the gas luckily never made it to the neighboring river, where it could have spread and caused serious environmental and public health concerns. It’s weird to say that this was a lucky drought, but here we are.


What Is The Pipeline Company Doing To Fix It?

Photo: Jay Reeves/AP

The pipeline company has been transporting the contaminated water in large tankers to temporary holding vessels, and it has built mitigation structures to ensure the gas doesn’t leak into local waterways.

The LA Times site says 700 people are working at the site of the leak trying to fix the ruptured passage, and build a temporary bypass pipe to meet customer demands. The company has also begun sending gasoline through another existing pipe that usually transports jet fuel and diesel.


Are State Officials Doing Anything To Help?

Governors of Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, South Carolina and North Carolina have issued executive orders to “temporarily suspended various state and federal regulations to allow truck drivers to work longer shifts to deliver gasoline.” And that’s probably a good thing, because look at the traffic these tankers have to sit through to fill their trucks:


How High Have Fuel Prices Reached?

Costs at the pump for regular gas have risen 0.12 cents in Tennessee in the last week, a whopping 21 cents in Georgia, 9 cents in South Carolina, 11 cents in North Carolina, and 6 cents in Alabama, according to AAA’s online fuel price tables,.


Those may not sound like huge numbers, but those are average numbers. In some places, gas prices have surged to three dollars per gallon, like at this Shell station in Georgia:


Are Some Pumps Completely Out Of Fuel?

Yep. In Nashville, just finding gas at all has been a chore. Watch this man nearly go bonkers trying to fill up his car:


And it’s not just Nashville. The Associated Press reports that multiple pumps near Atlanta have shut down, and some have had to resort to transporting fuel from Savannah (thereby bumping the price up by 20 cents). Go on Twitter or Instagram and look at the hashtag #gasshortage, and you’ll see lots of out-of-order fuel stations around the American southeast.


What Can People Do To Help?

Tennessee’s emergency management director, Patrick Sheehan, has asked people to buy gas like they normally would, and not to stock up on fuel. That’s only stressing the system more, as he explains in this public statement:

Tennessee’s consumers need to maintain their normal driving and fuel buying habits...If consumers fill up unnecessarily, top off their tanks when they aren’t close to empty, and fill multiple containers at the pumps, then our petroleum retailers will not be able to keep up with the demand of the fuel supply.


When Will The Pipeline Be Fixed?

There’s no timeline yet for how quickly Colonial Pipeline Co. will get their bypass line built, or the original line fixed. On Saturday, AP reports, the company released a statement saying they had begun repair work and that they’d have it back up in service “As rapidly and safely as possible.”

Sr. Technical Editor, Jalopnik. Always interested in hearing from auto engineers—email me. Cars: Willys CJ-2A ('48), Jeep J10 ('85), Jeep Cherokee ('79, '91, '92, '00), Jeep Grand Cherokee 5spd ('94).

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