NC Gas Station Brawl Makes International News, as Pipeline Panic Proves Self-Fulfilling

RALEIGH – About a third of North Carolina’s gas stations are out of gas, but that ratio is flipped in major metropolitan areas around and pockets around the state. That’s a recipe for high stress interactions over a suddenly precious pump, as if America needed any more high stress phenomena.

True to form, the sudden dash for dwindling gas resulted in a man and a woman trading blows at a North Carolina station and it’s made international headlines.

  • Brawl broke out at a Marathon station on the outskirts of Raleigh as frustrations boiled over on Tuesday
  • In metro Atlanta, nearly 60% of all gas stations are dry, and 24.8% of all stations in North Carolina are dry
  • Parker’s gas chain in Georgia and South Carolina is limiting customers to $50 worth of gas each
  • The Biden administration is urging motorists not to deepen the crisis with unnecessary panic buying
  • The national average price of gas now exceeds $3 for the first time since 2014  
  • Colonial, which is based in Atlanta, Georgia, has not yet said whether it will pay off the hackers 
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday denied any involvement with the attack

While we can all agree whoever cut the line in that situation may have had it coming, it’s not exactly a good look for North Carolina on the world stage. To that point, the accelerated path toward panic at the pump over the last 72 hours in North Carolina and other states isn’t just a bad look, it’s part of a bad trend altogether.

After several days of reports that the Colonial Pipeline had been hacked by Russians, shutdown for due diligence and investigation, and would take several days to come back online, something clicked among the public over the weekend.

By Monday, people were topping off their tanks, then Governor Roy Cooper declared a State of Emergency, reported widely, and the herd spooked. Stations were swamped, wiped out of gas, fights erupted and the emergency was quickly fulfilled.

Authorities have pleaded with the public to avoid hoarding or unnecessary purchases, reiterating that the pipeline will be back online and storage inventories are already robust enough to service demand for sufficient time until pumps are flowing again by the weekend.

That is, if people don’t panic buy gas. The instantaneous spread of information, a year’s worth of conditioning to closures and shortages, created a snowball effect of thirsty motorist mobs that led to three out of every four gas stations being dry in about 24 hours.

This hyper-demand driven shortage now has more to do with the logistics of tanker deliveries than it does with the Russian hackers that kicked it all off. While it shows how disruptive even mild cyber attacks on critical infrastructure can be, it also provides yet another example of this increasing cultural tendency of ours quick herd and mob in a manic fervor.

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