Hurricane Matthew hits gas prices

Staff Reports • Updated Oct 11, 2016 at 1:00 PM

Pump prices rose in Florida last week as gas stations struggled to meet surging demand due to Hurricane Matthew. 

The Florida average is 6 cents higher than this time last week. Meanwhile, state averages are 2 cents less in Georgia and about the same as last week in Tennessee. 

Some of the largest increases during the past week were 7 cents in Fort Myers, Fla., 8 cents in Miami and 9 cents in West Palm Beach, Fla. and Fort Lauderdale, Fla. 

“As the hurricane approached, Floridians flocked to the pumps in large numbers, leaving many gas stations on empty,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman for AAA. “It is not uncommon for outages to occur during a major storm like this, due to the spike in demand. Fortunately, trucks should be able to quickly resupply stations across the impacted area, barring any delays due to flooding and power outages.”

The ability to resupply gasoline hinges on the impact Hurricane Matthew had on the ports. Most of Florida’s gasoline is delivered on waterborne tankers, stored at the ports, then picked-up by tanker trucks and transported to filling stations throughout the state. Coastal markets in Georgia and South Carolina also rely on waterborne terminals for their fuel supply. Marketers in these states have the option of traveling inland and picking up product from the Colonial and Plantation pipelines. 

Port Canaveral, Port of Jacksonville, Port Everglades and Port Miami were temporarily closed, bringing a halt to fuel shipments. Regular operations at Port of Savannah resumed Tuesday.  

Although gas prices rose an average of 6 cents, the increase could have been much larger if the hurricane was in the Gulf Coast. Much of Florida’s gasoline shipments come from refineries in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. Anytime a major storm threatens these refineries, gas prices shoot up. Hurricane Matthew temporarily shut down ports along the East Coast but did not threaten refinery supply. 

Nationally, drivers may continue to see pump prices wobble higher or lower in the next few weeks as the market reacts to an OPEC production agreement and continued refinery maintenance.

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