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Saturday, September 26, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Hurricane Sally not expected to impact local gas prices

UPDATED: Wed., Sept. 16, 2020

This photo from Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020, shows floodwaters in Pensacola, Fla. as Hurricane Sally made landfall. The storm is not likely to cause higher gas prices in the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene area, despite its impact on the Gulf refining industry, according to regional AAA spokespersons.  (Associated Press)
This photo from Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020, shows floodwaters in Pensacola, Fla. as Hurricane Sally made landfall. The storm is not likely to cause higher gas prices in the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene area, despite its impact on the Gulf refining industry, according to regional AAA spokespersons. (Associated Press)
By Thomas Clouse The Spokesman-Review

Even with much of the West still under smoke from area wildfires and Hurricane Sally slamming the Gulf Coast causing refineries to shut down, drivers in the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene drivers should not expect to see gasoline prices spike anytime soon.

In fact, they actually should be coming down, according to spokespersons from the AAA offices in Washington and Idaho.

Spokane’s average price of regular gasoline as of Wednesday was $2.67 a gallon, which is down 23 cents from a year ago, said Jennifer Cook, spokeswoman for AAA Washington.

The average price of regular gasoline in Coeur d’Alene was $2.31, which is 30 cents below what it was in a year ago, said Matthew Conde, spokesman for AAA Idaho & Oregon.

“Right now, the supplies across the country are good. We have plenty of refined fuel,” Cook said. “Also, demand is down. We made it through the heavy summer driving season even though we didn’t see the levels that we normally do.”

And, Conde said, refineries are about to switch from summer fuel blends, which are designed to burn cleaner in summer months, to winter blends, which are not as expensive to produce.

“We are making the switch to winter blend fuel in a week or so,” Conde said. “Once the remains of summer blends work their way through the system, that coupled with lower demand, should work for our favor and gas prices are likely to stay low all the way to Thanksgiving.”

The heavy rains and flooding caused by Hurricane Sally have forced refineries to temporarily shut down in the Gulf region.

Across the Gulf, just more than 23% of production platforms and 30% of rigs have been evacuated, according to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. Nearly 27% of oil production and more than 28% of gas has been shut down. Phillips 66 said it would shut its Alliance refinery in Louisiana ahead of the storm.

However, Cook said she doesn’t expect those closures to affect the pump prices in Washington.

“Typically, that doesn’t impact us that much. Our refined fuel does not come from that area” affected by the current hurricane, she said. “Where it could impact us is if there are long-term outages.”

Cook said she’s aware that Sally has caused massive flooding. “It’s when the hurricane winds damage the refineries that we have more long-term impacts. The more long-term outages may cause West Coast refineries to fill in,” she said. “But that’s not likely to happen.”

The concern, she said, is a series of storms like Sally pounding the Gulf Coast that could disrupt supplies.

In addition to Sally, a few other storms are churning in the Atlantic. Hurricane Paulette is drifting out to sea after battering Bermuda. The other storms – Teddy and Vicky – won’t be an immediate threat to land. There is a 70% chance a fifth storm could form in the next five days.

Absent a prolonged series of hurricanes, Conde, of AAA Oregon & Idaho, said shortages should remain localized.

“The impacts from the wildfires work more or less the same way,” he said. “There is enough of an oversupply in the market that we should be able to hold on pretty well.”

Bloomberg contributed to this report.

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