Drivers pulling into a station with a sign offering unleaded gasoline for $2.649 per gallon in Manning, South Carolina, were met with pumps covered in yellow and red “out of service” bags. An estimated 7% of gas stations in the state of Virginia were out of fuel as of late Monday, according to GasBuddy analyst Patrick DeHaan.

In an 18-minute virtual meeting, Blount said Colonial is working with refiners, marketers and retailers to prevent shortages, according to a person involved with the meeting who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about the discussion. The pipeline serves 90 U.S. military installations and 26 oil refineries, the person said.

The shutdown has prompted frenzied moves by traders and retailers to secure alternative supplies. Oil tanker charter rates skyrocketed in the U.S. with refiners scrambling for ships to store fuel that has nowhere to go.

Emergency shipments of gasoline and diesel from Texas are already on the way to Atlanta and other southeastern cities via trucks, and at least two Gulf Coast refineries began trimming output amid expectations that supplies will begin backing up in the nation’s oil-refining nexus.

The national average retail gasoline price rose to $2.985 a gallon, the highest since November 2014, according to the American Automobile Association. The premium for wholesale gasoline in the New York area expanded to its widest in three months.

The event is just the latest example of critical infrastructure being targeted by ransomware. Hackers are increasingly attempting to infiltrate essential services such as electric grids and hospitals. The escalating threats prompted the White House to respond last month with a plan to increase security at utilities and their suppliers. Pipelines are a specific concern because of the central role they play in the U.S. economy.

Ransomware cases involve hackers seeding networks with malicious software that encrypts the data and leaves the machines locked until the victims pay the extortion fee. This would be the biggest attack of its kind on a U.S. fuel pipeline.

DarkSide said in a post on the dark web that it wasn’t to blame and hinted that an affiliate group may have been behind the attack. The group promised to do a better job of screening customers that buy its malware.

“It’s an all-hands-on-deck effort right now,” said U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo. “We are working closely with the company, state and local officials to make sure that they get back up to normal operations as quickly as possible and there aren’t disruptions in supply.”

The White House pulled together an inter-agency task force to address the breach, including exploring options for lessening its impact, according to an official. Biden can invoke an array of emergency powers to ensure supplies keep flowing to big cities and airports along the East Coast.

Some rules curbing domestic transportation of fuel have been eased to help deal with any shortages. That doesn’t extend to waiving the Jones Act, a measure that would allow foreign tankers to help shuffle more petroleum products between U.S. ports.

The Northeast can secure gasoline shipments from Europe but it will come at an increasing cost the longer the pipeline stays shut. In the meantime, fuel producers including Marathon Petroleum Corp. are weighing alternatives for how to ship their products to the Northeast.

Landlocked cities face the greatest danger of fuel shortages compared with those with access to water-borne deliveries, said Steve Boyd, senior managing director at Houston-based distributor Sun Coast Resources Inc. If the pipeline remains down for many more days, he’s anticipating a “massive surge” in orders.

—With assistance from Alex Longley, Gerson Freitas Jr., Tony Czuczka, Alan Levin, Jack Wittels, Prejula Prem, Alaric Nightingale, Brian Wingfield, Hanna Hoikkala, Sheela Tobben, Jim Silver, Mary Schlangenstein, Jennifer Epstein, Lucia Kassai, William Turton, Robert Tuttle and Serene Cheong.

This article was provided by Bloomberg News.

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