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Hurricane shouldn’t cause local gas price hikes
On the East Coast, however, the story is different
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Hurricane Florence is not expected to cause gas prices around here to increase, experts say.

As weather-leary residents and tourists flee Hurricane Florence now taking aim at the Eastern Seaboard, experts don’t anticipate the storm to impact gasoline prices elsewhere in the country. 

“The good news for motorists is that this is not an event that will result in widespread gas price spikes. Refiners are unhindered and out of the way of the storm, so gasoline keeps flowing.” said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy. “Gas prices are still likely to fluctuate in the days and weeks ahead, but it will likely be due to other factors, such as the price of oil rising or falling.”

There may be minor price movements, mainly in the hardest hit areas as a result, but only in a worst case scenario, he said. Gas prices will eventually fall due to lower autumn demand and a switch to cheaper winter gasoline that takes place this weekend. 

The average pump price in Kansas was $2.63 per gallon Wednesday afternoon, with the lowest price reported at Augusta with $2.37 and the highest at Sabetha with $2.95. The national average was $2.84.

Great Bend came in at $2.62. Larned reported $2.63, Lyons $2.57, Hays $2.61, Hutchinson $2.46 and Wichita $2.49.

Sure, in the hurricane’s bulls eye, “gasoline availability has been a headache, but the good news is that supply has remained healthy,” DeHaan said. “Stations aren’t able to refill their storage tanks as quickly as motorists are filling up due to the influx of demand.”

But, supply continues to flow out of refineries at normal levels, so the outages at stations are more of a headache than a panic, he said. “There are many stations that still have fuel as refiners and gasoline production have continued countrywide. There have been no refinery shutdowns as a result of Florence.” 

Motorists in the affected regions can expect some continued bottlenecks as stations try to catch up. After the storm, power disruptions may make filling up more challenging, but motorists should not worry. 

The number of called upon to leave the area is estimated at one million, including nearly 250,000 residents in the flood-prone evacuation zone. The exodus from these area could drive up gasoline prices in and around the area. That is especially true for residents under evacuation orders in the coastal areas and flood-prone areas of Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, where Governors of the respective states have issued evacuations orders.

“A catastrophic storm system, such as Hurricane Florence, could cause an increase in fuel demand, due to panic buying, leading up to the storm and then reduce demand dramatically post-hurricane,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s manager of public and government affairs. “What is more, flooding and power outages have the potential to knockout parts of the Colonial and Plantation pipelines. Most of these pipelines are located inland, but the region has seen more rainfall, as compared to last summer.”

Spikes in pump prices likely will be brief, but dramatic. Fortunately, since Sunday, the average price for unleaded gasoline along the projected path of Hurricane Florence has remained relatively stable, AAA reported. 

“There is plenty of gasoline,” DeHaan said. The delay is due to the logistics of getting gasoline to the stations. 

More delays may occur after Florence has moved on due to possible storm damage, debris or flooding.