Huge section of gas pipeline shut down

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ALPHARETTA, Ga. - Operators of Colonial Pipeline say Hurricane Sandy is not affecting metro Atlanta's gasoline supply, but they made a drastic move in the hurricane zone.

The Alpharetta-based pipeline pumps gas, diesel and aircraft fuel from the Gulf Coast, through Atlanta to New York's harbor.

Consumer investigator Jim Strickland has learned a huge section of the pipeline is shut down. He said Colonial Pipeline carries up 100 million gallons a day. Much of the fuel flows to Powder Springs, Ga. in Cobb County, where it services Atlanta. But trying to get the fuel farther up the East Coast is the problem.

Local driver John Catchings recalled 2008, when the gas lines were triggered by a pair of Gulf hurricanes.

"Everywhere I went back in those days, you couldn't get gas," said John Catchings.

"I tried not to drive, as much as possible because I just couldn't afford it," another driver Ali Heller said.

Inside the nerve center in Alpharetta, controlling much of the East Coast's fuel supply, Strickland found a new issue.

He started with the good news, which is there are not any problems for local drivers.

"They should be reassured that there is gasoline there, especially in the Atlanta market," said Colonial Pipeline spokesman Steve Baker.

Baker said local drivers should be able to fill up any time. But operators running Colonial Pipeline in Alpharetta said they can't pump gas into the hurricane zone and the pipe is not the problem.

"It's full. Our tanks are full. Our customers that we normally deliver out to are unable to take deliveries because they were damaged by the storm," Baker said.

There was an hour-long wait to buy fuel for generators in New Jersey – not a gas shortage, but a shortage of open gas stations.

Baker said the supply pipeline is sound.

"We were able to get through this historic storm without spilling an ounce," added Baker.

Strickland was the first television reporter to see the pipeline's beginnings in Houston. It's 2,500 miles from the New Jersey city to New York's harbor.

While there's no way to tell when the full system will be flowing again, for now, the southern end of the region is all in the clear – a far cry from 2008.

"I'm glad it's not like that now and I didn't even come out and get gas before the storm," said Catchings, the metro Atlanta driver Strickland, who spoke to Strickland.

Strickland, meanwhile, says the numbers bear out what Colonial said.

He added that Colonial  pumps much of the gas to a tank farm in Doraville, where Strickland checks wholesale prices daily. Tuesday's price was down three cents, he said.