While motorists cope with rain and winds from Hurricane Irma today, the remnants of Hurricane Harvey are still hitting motorists in the pocketbook.
Gas prices in Chattanooga have jumped by 49 cents per gallon in the past month after Harvey slammed into the Gulf coast in Texas and idled gas refineries and temporarily idled the biggest pipeline to Chattanooga.
According to GasBuddy's daily survey of 170 gas outlets in Chattanooga released Monday, the average price of gas in Chattanooga rose another 4.4 cents per gallon last week. The increase boosted local fuel prices to their highest level in more than two years and marked the biggest one-time jump in prices in five years.
Hurricane Irma, which struck Florida over the weekend and is bringing rain and winds to Tennessee today, also temporarily suspended some truck deliveries of fuel to many stations in the Southeast and redirected normal travel across the region this week. But GasBuddy.com analyst Patrick DeHaan said "motorists shouldn't expect to see any impact from Irma on gasoline prices due to the path being a considerable distance from sensitive areas of the energy sector."
Emily LeRoy, executive director of the Tennessee Fuel and Convenience Store Association, said while there are more storm evacuees traveling through the state, stations across the region were getting deliveries as needed Monday. Most pipelines and other gas delivery methods were getting back to normal this week, LeRoy said.
"I think Tennessee has done very well in keeping fuel supplies and meeting motorists needs, and supply sources are increasing this week," she said. "Over the past couple of weeks, there have been intermittent rolling outages, but I'm not hearing that there were any widespread outages anywhere."
But motorists are paying far more for fuel than they did just three weeks ago before refineries began shutting down before Harvey hit the Gulf coast. Average retail gasoline prices in Chattanooga rose this week to $2.56 per gallon.
Industry analyst Trilby Lundberg said Sunday the jump in gas prices in the past couple of weeks is the biggest price hike recorded by the Lundberg Survey since 2011. But she said wholesale gasoline prices have started to decline since refineries came back online last week and she expects prices at the pump will follow.
For now, however, gas prices in Chattanooga remain 60.5 cents per gallon higher than the same day one year ago and have moved within 9 cents of the national average price for gas, after being more than 30 cents per gallon below the U.S. average through much of the summer, GasBuddy.com said.
"Harvey may be long gone, but his wrath continued to drive gasoline prices up in much of the country in the last week," DeHaan said. "However, the effects are finally starting to weaken as refineries return to production and fuel begins to flow once again from many Houston refineries."
DeHaan said the U.S. average price peaked last Thursday "and is beginning to slowly decline for the time being."
"With summer driving season now over, motorists stand to benefit from falling demand, which will help refineries bring gasoline inventories back to normal and thus gas prices," DeHaan said. "But as many Americans are now acutely aware, the impact on gas prices can outlive a storm, especially one like Harvey."
Contact Dave Flessner at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6340.
This story was updated Sept. 11 at 9:10 p.m. with more information.