An end to the nation’s gasoline supply anxieties is within sight, but not before fears of a shortage fueled a panic-buying frenzy throughout Virginia, including in Fairfax County.

The Colonial Pipeline Company announced yesterday afternoon (Wednesday) that it has restarted operations and is now in the process of delivering gas to individual markets.

“Following this restart, it will take several days for the product delivery supply chain to return to normal,” the company said in an update at 5:11 p.m.

A major gas and jet fuel source for the southern United States and much of the East Coast, the Colonial Pipeline shut down on Saturday (May 8) in response to a ransomware attack perpetrated by a criminal organization called DarkSide that’s likely based out of Eastern Europe.

On Tuesday, Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency in anticipation of disruptions to the supply chain that supports many Virginia retailers.

“This emergency declaration will help the Commonwealth prepare for any potential supply shortages and ensure Virginia motorists have access to fuel as we respond to this evolving situation,” Northam said.

Within 24 hours, the travel app company GasBuddy calculated that 44% of gas stations in Virginia were out of gas, the highest percentage of any impacted state. That rate rose to 55% as of this morning, though, the Commonwealth has been surpassed by North Carolina, where 71% of stations were reportedly running on empty.

Fairfax County was not exempt from the fuel outages or the panic-buying that contributed to depleted gasoline supplies, as social media filled up with reports of stations running out of gas.

Drivers continually passed through an Exxon station at the corner of Maple Avenue and Branch Road in Vienna yesterday afternoon, only to be disappointed by the sight of “out of gas” signs posted on all of its pumps.

The owner told Reston Now that the station had been out of gas since Tuesday, but they hoped more supplies would come within the next day.

The Exxon station at Hunter Woods Plaza in Reston was cut off from traffic by yellow caution tape as of 2:10 p.m. on Wednesday, according to local writer Addison Del Mastro, who added that the Exxon at the Fox Mill Shopping Center in Herndon was also out.

Readers told Reston Now that Sunoco stations in the North Point Village Center and on South Lakes Drive near Twin Branches Road had also run out of fuel.

Stations that did have gas had either very long lines or were saving it for emergency vehicle use only.

The Mobil station on Maple Avenue and Park Street in Vienna had been crowded all day, a worker told Reston Now around 5 p.m. yesterday. At that time, drivers pulled up to each pump as soon as the vehicle ahead of them finished filling up, and lines extended into the streets at both entrances to the station.

Meanwhile, local officials and agencies urged folks not to panic, horde gasoline, or to put gas in plastic bags, emphasizing that the shortages were expected to be temporary.

Fairfax County said that it did not anticipate any disruptions to government operations or services as a result of the pipeline shutdown.

“The county maintains its own fuel supply, which is distributed through 53 fueling sites, and receives regular deliveries,” the county said. “County operation plans take into account the possibility of temporary fuel shortages and price increases.”

Angela Woolsey contributed to this report.

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Morning Notes

Virginia Declares State of Emergency Over Gas Supplies — Gov. Ralph Northam gave the state and local governments increased flexibility and funding yesterday (Tuesday) after a ransomware attack disrupted the Colonial Pipeline, which provides 45% of the East Coast’s gasoline supply. 7.5% of the state’s 3,880 gas stations reported running out of fuel, a shortage primarily attributed to panic buying. [WTOP]

ABC Stores Will Resume Pre-Pandemic Hours on Friday — “After more than a year of reduced operating hours in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, all Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority (ABC) stores will return to pre-pandemic operating hours on May 14, 2021. All stores will open by 10 a.m. every day, apart from some stores which regularly open later on Sundays…Closing times vary by store.” [Virginia ABC]

Herndon Robbery Suspect Still Unidentified — An armed robbery of a business in the 1000 block of Elden Street on Thursday (May 6) is still under investigation. Police say “an unknown subject” entered the business shortly before 10 a.m., displayed a weapon, and demanded money. The business and amount of money taken have not been disclosed. [Herndon Police Department]

Fairfax County Warns About “Phone Spoofing” Scam — Multiple Fairfax County residents have reported receiving calls from 703-324-1000 saying that their data has been compromised and they need to set up fraud protection. While the number appears to be from the MyFairfax online portal, it is a scam, and the county says people should not call any secondary number or give out their personal or county information. [Fairfax County Government]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Sheetz in Herndon rendering (Photo via screenshot/Fairfax County Planning Commission)

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has approved the plan to bring a Sheetz to Herndon, the first of its kind in the county.

First reported in February 2020, the 6,007 square-foot Sheetz will be built at 13850 McLearen Road.

But the approval at Tuesday’s (March 23) County Board meeting comes even though there were stated misgivings about the company’s refusal to go through the LEED-certification process.

Despite the county requesting that Sheetz commit to LEED-certification or an equivalent program, the company declined.

The reason, as a company spokesperson stated during the meeting, was that verification was a “very time consuming and burdensome process.” The company did promise to adhere to other green building commitments.

This reasoning didn’t sit well with a number of supervisors, noting that it set a bad precedent for others looking to get approval to build in the county.

The county, as well as neighboring jurisdictions, have prioritized LEED-certification as a means of meeting long-term goals of cutting carbon emissions.

Supervisor James Walkinshaw also noted that building another gas station in Fairfax County “perpetuates our addiction to fossil fuels” and will be a decision we regret with “what all the world knows about the climate crisis.”

However, a majority of the County Board still approved the building of a Sheetz food store, gas station, and restaurant with a drive-through.

In total, 8 supervisors voted yea, one nay (Supervisor Walkinshaw), and one abstained (Supervisor Storck).

The company representative at the meeting noted this will be the first Sheetz location in Fairfax County.

With the approval, Reston Now has reached out to Sheetz about a timeline for construction and an estimated opening date. We have yet to hear back as of publication.

The Sheetz will occupy a roughly 2.7-acre parcel of land that will soon be vacant after the demolition of a two-story office building and surface parking lot. That building was constructed in 1977.

The Sheetz will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There will be 49 car parking spots, five of which will be reserved as electric vehicle charging stations.

The building is set to be constructed with materials including brick veneer facade with cast stone masonry.

County staff asked for high quality landscaping” so the development is “attractive” in its “highly visible site” along McLearen Road.

Photo via handout/Fairfax County Planning Commission

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Local police are investigating the theft of an ATM at a Sunoco gas station in Herndon.

According to the Fairfax County Police Department, two men broke into the Sunoco at 11516 Leesburg Pike a little after 3 a.m. on Feb. 3 and stole an ATM machine.

The two men then escaped in a van.

Local police are investigating the incident. They were alerted when an alarm sounded in the area after the men broke a door to the closed business.

Image via Google Maps

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Exxon Mobil is seeking more time to expand its location on 1818 Wiehle Avenue.

In a letter to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, a company representative said that construction has been delayed due to “many items,” including “pandemic-related issues.”

The company is requesting an additional one year to complete the project, which was approved in 2017.

Once construction is completed, the gas station would include an expanded quick-service food store and the replacement of an existing car wash.

The extension request heads to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors tomorrow (Tuesday) for a vote.

Image via Google Maps

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Two Herndon men have been arrested in connection with the April 21 robbery of an Exxon in Sterling.

Jorge A. Alvarado-Soriano, 19, and Elias G. Guzman, 20, were arrested and charged with robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery.

Police believe the suspects entered the convenience store of the gas station at 45601 Falke Plaza at around 1:15 p.m. One suspect jumped over the counter as the second suspect attempted to purchase a drink from the store clerk. An undisclosed amount of cash was taken.

Although no weapons were displayed during the robbery, the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office described the robbery as “strong-armed.”

Both suspects are being held at the Loudoun County Adult Detention Center on no bond. Alvarado-Soranio was arrested yesterday (April 23) and Guzman was arrested on April 17.

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Tuesday Morning Notes

Health Alert Kit On the Way — Households in Fairfax County and the Town of Herndon will receive a COVID-19 toolkit in the mail that includes instruction on what to do if you’re sick, what to do if you’re in contact with someone who is sick, and how to talk to close contents if you are sick. [Fairfax County Government]

Attempted Robbery at Exxon in Great Falls — A man attempted to rob the Exxon gas station on 9829 Georgetown Pike in Great Falls on April 10. Police said the man left when the clerk told him there was no money. [Fairfax County Police Department]

What’s Happening Today — The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will meet electronically today beginning at 1 p.m. to discuss next year’s revised budget and other coronavirus-related items. [Fairfax County Government]

Plans for Non-essential Businesses — “As the end date approaches for the Gov. Ralph Northam’s order that closed non-essential recreation and entertainment businesses, the governor plans to extend the date. Northam has not set an end date for that extension, but an announcement is expected. Wednesday.”  [Patch]

Photo by Bryan Harrell/Twitter

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Charges are pending against two men who police believe attempted to rob an Exxon gas station in Reston on Monday (April 6).

Police believe that two men, who have not been identified, threatened a gas station employee with a machete and demanded cash at the Exxon on 11808 Baron Cameron Avenue. The employee was able to take control of the weapon.

The men attempted to escape but were found after a helicopter-assisted search.

The Fairfax County Police Department says that charges are pending “further investigation.”

Image via Google Maps

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Sheetz, a popular gas and convenience store chain, has plans to come to Herndon.

The company, which recently opened a location in Sterling, has submitted an application to the county for a service station, convenience food store, and restaurant with a drive-thru.

The Herndon location is planned on a roughly two-acre parcel on 13850 McLearen Road.

Here’s more from the application:

The Applicant intends to demolish the office building and surface parking lot fronting on McLearen Road, and construct the new Sheetz service station with a quick-service food store and restaurant with drive-through uses facility. The proposed Sheetz store will total approximately 6,075 square feet in size. The retail store building will be oriented towards McLearen Road, while the fuel pumps will be oriented to Towerview Road. The drive-through lane associated with the restaurant is located along the back of the building and along the southern property line to effectively manage stacking and be less visible from surrounding streets.

The application was accepted by the county on Feb. 7. No dates for a public hearing or other steps in the county’s approval process have been set yet. 

Photo courtesy Sheetz/Facebook

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