As Hurricane Irma looms, demand for gasoline in Georgia grows


With Hurricane Irma roaring toward Puerto Rico and threatening the U.S. mainland, the demand for gasoline in Georgia has surged enough to drain the pumps at some stations.

Among stations checked, 61 metro Atlanta stations were without gas, although more than 2,500 were pumping normally, according to an accounting in mid-afternoon Tuesday by Gas Buddy.

“We are starting to see more reports of stations running out of gasoline across Florida, but northern Florida looks good, as does much of Georgia for now,” said Patrick DeHaan, senior industry analyst for Gas Buddy. “But it could worsen as Irma gets closer due to more people deciding to leave.”

Gas Buddy’s data relies on driver reporting and it isn’t complete: the status of about 20 percent of metro Atlanta stations was unknown.

Meanwhile, closer to the storm, the best data for the Miami area showed 136 stations without gas and 247 still pumping, he said.

No precise figures are possible on departures from the coast. However, the prospects of being pummeled by a devastating hurricane has spurred a declaration of emergency by Gov. Rick Scott and many Floridians are heading for higher ground, which means Georgia and points north.

The heightened demand Tuesday comes with the distribution system just one day after the second of two Colonial Pipeline conduits was restarted. Those pipelines now can bring fuel from the Houston area, where some refineries had been shut and shipments into the port had been suspended.

Irma’s winds are among the fiercest ever recorded for an Atlantic hurricane. But whatever damage it might do to the coastal areas, experts say it is not likely to veer toward the rigs and refineries peppering the Gulf of Mexico – the area pounded several weeks ago by Hurricane Harvey.

The storm and record rain forced closure of the Colonial Pipelines two conduits from the area. The nation’s largest pipelines, Colonial normally carries the lion’s share of fuel to metro Atlanta so when it went down, the price of gas spikes.

Any fears of shortages eased when the first pipeline came back Monday. The second Tuesday.

By then, gasoline in metro Atlanta was up an average of 55 cents a gallon in less than two weeks. But it hasn’t much budged since then: The average price of gas in metro Atlanta mid-Wednesday was $2.78 a gallon, holding steady over the past few days.

Prices range for $2.31 a gallon at a BP in College Park to $3.29 a gallon at a station near midtown Atlanta. Also a BP.

Metro Atlanta prices are about a dime-a-gallon higher than the national average and are about seven cents higher than the state average.

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AJC Business reporter Michael E. Kanell keeps you updated on the latest news about jobs, housing and consumer issues in metro Atlanta and beyond. You'll find more on myAJC.com, including these stories: 

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