'Catastrophic flooding' hits Houston after Harvey's heavy downpour
Gasoline prices in the Bradenton-Sarasota area have remained stable since Hurricane Harvey slammed into coastal Texas late Friday, forcing several refineries to temporarily shut down.
That said, expect rising prices locally and across Florida in the coming days, analysts say.
Motorists in the two-county region were paying an average of $2.30 per gallon of regular unleaded Monday, according to the AAA daily fuel tracker, compared to the state average of $2.32 and the national average of $2.37. A week earlier, the average in the Manatee-Sarasota region was $2.21 per gallon.
Drivers could soon see another round of significant increases, though: “A minimum of 10-30 cents (per gallon) would not be a surprise,” AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins said.
With Labor Day weekend and the unofficial end of summer approaching, coupled with the uncertainty over the extent of damage caused by the major hurricane, Harvey’s impact at the pump could be felt for weeks to come.
“(It depends) on how long it takes Texas refiners to return to normal operations,” GasBuddy senior analyst Patrick DeHaan said. “The situation could worsen should more shutdowns or outages happen in the coming week as Harvey continues to drop feet of rain on already-flooded Texas.”
AAA officials noted late last week that hurricanes typically have a limited impact on gas supplies, since refineries return to full operation as quickly as possible. But it’s uncertain how long the Texas refineries will be affected by Harvey as the storm continues to linger.
Refineries in Corpus Christi, near where the storm made landfall late Friday, shut down as Hurricane Harvey was approaching. The majority of refineries in the Houston area remained open until Sunday, when flooding forced some to begin shutting down.
One out of every five barrels of gasoline produced in the U.S. has been threatened by Hurricane Harvey, AAA said, and more than a quarter of the country’s refining capacity in the Gulf of Mexico went offline because of the storm.
Also, gasoline futures surged to their highest level in two years, increasing more than 5 percent on Monday as Harvey continues to wreak havoc across Texas and Louisiana.
Closer to home, GasBuddy’s daily survey of more than 300 outlets in the region had Manatee County stations averaging $2.31 per gallon on Monday, with Sarasota at $2.28. Nearby, drivers in Pinellas County were paying an average of $2.28 per gallon, and motorists in Hillsborough were paying $2.29.
“There remains a lot of uncertainty in the market,” Jenkins said. “Hurricane Harvey hit a major supply line for gasoline in Florida and along the eastern seaboard.”
AAA reported that the most-expensive markets in Florida were West Palm Beach-Boca Raton ($2.40), Tallahassee ($2.34) and Miami ($2.33). The least expensive were Jacksonville ($2.28), Orlando ($2.28) and Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater ($2.29).