Hurricane Irma is long gone, but one of the monster storm’s biggest fallouts is expected to slow Florida’s recovery for at least the next several days.
Gas shortages around the state are likely to last up to a week as stations try to resupply their tanks.
Trucks are heading south on I-75 and I-95 – often with escorts from the Florida Highway Patrol – to help with the state’s shortage, AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins said.
But a bigger issue is the ports that were shut down during the storm, since Florida gets its petroleum products delivered by tanker and barge from Texas and Louisiana. Port Tampa Bay and Port Everglades, for example, combine to handle about 700,000 barrels of petroleum per day.
When Port Tampa Bay reopened Tuesday afternoon, there were four barges waiting offshore to make deliveries, and they have arrived to begin unloading fuel into waiting vehicles for transport to gas stations.
Gas stations across Manatee County that had power on Tuesday were starting to reopen, though it’s likely that long lines will continue for the rest of the week.
“Availability is still challenging and going to get worse,” GasBuddy senior petroleum analyst Patrick DeHaan told Bloomberg.
Gov. Rick Scott has repeatedly said that state officials are doing all they can to get fuel to Florida, though those trying to get home after evacuating the storm should expect shortages along the interstates.
“We must make sure Floridians have the fuel they need to get home and back to work, and the electricity they need to live their lives,” Scott said in a press release Tuesday night. “We are making progress on both fronts, but I will not rest until we are 100 percent recovered. While power has been restored to nearly two million homes and businesses so far, there is much more work that needs to be done.”
GasBuddy has established a hurricane recovery feature to report price gouging, but motorists — many returning to Florida after evacuating — are using it to ask where to find gas.
Florida was already running low on gas after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas and Louisiana, then saw supplies diminish even more as motorists continually topped off their tanks and filled gas cans for generators as Irma approached.
Now, it could take days before Florida’s thirst for fuel is satisfied.