The price of gas is still 60 cents a gallon higher than a year ago, but at least the number of stations in metro Atlanta without fuel is dropping.
With thousands of Florida evacuees now back home and many area schools still closed, the demand crunch that drained the supplies of hundreds of area retailers has eased.
Moreover, the distribution network has rebounded.
Operations are back to normal after the flow of fuel was pinched by Hurricane Harvey’s hammering of the refineries and ports along the Texas coast and Hurricane Irma’s disruption of deliveries.
“We still don’t have access to every Texas refinery we’re connected to, so sometimes we have to wait on supply,” said Steve Baker, spokesman for Alpharetta-based Colonial Pipeline, which supplies most of the fuel to metro Atlanta. “But basically, Colonial is up and running without any other limitations.”
About 11 percent of the more than 2,000 metro Atlanta stations were still out of fuel Thursday, compared to about 14 percent just two days ago, according to Gas Buddy surveys.
It’s too early, experts say, to see prices fall to their pre-hurricane levels, but at least the retailers who do have gasoline have not raised the price any further.
In fact, the price spike helped keep the fuel coming, enticing supplies from other countries, said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for Gas Buddy.
“Without the rise in price, additional fuel would not have sailed for the (southeast) and real outages would have been much worse,” he said. “While no one likes gas prices to rise, it is important that the free market continue to function this way. I’m sure for Floridians trying to escape Irma it was better to have more expensive fuel than none at all.”
The average price of gas in metro Atlanta region inched up a penny Thursday to $2.81 a gallon, compared to $2.24 a gallon one month ago, according to Gas Buddy.
A year ago, gas averaged $2.20 a gallon.
The price of gasoline typically dips as summer ends, gradually declining to year-long lows during the late winter. That pattern is expected to repeat itself this year, just with a delayed start.
“From here out, we’ll see a nice decline so long as no more unexpected events interrupt the market,” DeHaan said. “Starting in a week or so, we should see the entire country in the midst of declines at the pump.”
Metro Atlanta average price per gallon of gas
Thursday — $2.81
One month ago — $2.24
One year ago — $2.20
Two years ago — $2.25
Record high (2008) — $4.11
Source: Gas Buddy