U.S. 27 in Somerset is known for being lined with a variety of gas stations, from the north end to the south — plenty of places to fill up.
On Tuesday, those options became a little bit more limited.
Customers pulled up to put gas not only in their vehicle but in spare tanks. Long lines wrapped around pumps. Gas stations actually ran out of fuel in some cases.
The cause, of course, was a concern over gas availability and cost following the headline-topping May 7 cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline, a 5,500-mile system which provides almost half of the supply fueling the nation's East Coast.
Rising prices at the pump nationally was an initial reaction to the disruption in fuel availability, which saw a panic-buying reaction in many areas. Somerset was not immune, as social media posts about gas stations running dry were the buzz du jour on Tuesday.
Leah Taylor, President and CEO at Cumberland Lake Shell, the local petroleum product wholesaler, said that it has been a "struggle" to acquire gasoline on their part.
"We're just supplying it as we can get it and putting everybody on allocations," said Taylor. "There is still supply. We're pulling more product out of Lexington and the Catlettsburg area. Hopefully we get good news in the next day or so, but we're just following the news along with everybody else."
The "good news" Taylor was waiting on was when the pipeline would be turned back on — she'd heard that by the end of the week, it should be up and running — but that "good news" track proceeded perhaps sooner than expected. On Wednesday afternoon, after the Commonwealth Journal spoke to Taylor, the company operating the Colonial Pipeline said it had restarted operations, though they noted it would still take several days for the delivery supply chain to fully return to normal.
"What's exacerbated this has been public panic," said Taylor, though she noted that it's a "natural reaction" for people to go out and buy more gas than usual whenever a situation like this one becomes national news.
"We've seen some businesses limiting (how much one customer can buy) because people are filling up everything they have. They're wanting to top off their gas or put it into gas containers, that's been happening quite a bit," said Taylor. However, she observed, "You can't control what the public wants to do."
Taylor said that Cumberland Lake Shell has been able to resupply retailers "fairly quickly as time allows," and has been splitting product between stations as they get it so that the distribution is fair. "It's just a matter of first come, first serve as far as when we get product," she said.
Many remember the gas shortages from the 1970s that saw long lines at product-starved stations evolve into a national crisis for long periods of time. This situation isn't on that level, assured Taylor, and will be a relatively short-term problem.
"We're quite a long way from" what happened in the '70s, she said. "... This is just an anomaly. It's just such a terrible thing to happen to the pipeline, but it's not as long-lived as some shortages have been."
Things seemed back to normal from a quick observation of U.S. 27 businesses on Tuesday. However, at least for a while, people won't be able to buy gasoline from the City of Somerset Fuel Center. The shortages forced the city-operated gas station to pause public sales for a few days to make sure their own vehicles — police cruisers, fire trucks — have enough fuel, said Somerset Mayor Alan Keck.
"You're starting to see some folks get nervous," said Keck. "(The supply problems) aren't as severe if everybody doesn't rush out and buy it and treat it as a snow storm. You end up creating supply issues for everybody by rushing to the pumps and buying in one day what would normally be spread out over seven; you exacerbate a problem that doesn't exist."
Keck said the pause in city sales to the public would likely only last to this weekend, but that's "to be determined," he noted.