Folks far from the Gulf Coast are feeling the effects of Hurricane Isaac, which made landfall Tuesday night.
Prices at the gas pump jumped — often more than a dime a gallon — as several major refineries along the Gulf Coast halted production in anticipation of high winds and heavy rains. The price surge arrives at a time of year when gas prices typically begin to recede.
“I think before Isaac came along, all the tea leaves would have indicated downward pressure on gas prices, due to the end of the busy summer travel season,” said Jim Hanni, an executive vice president for public affairs at AAA.
Even before Isaac entered the gulf, at least a quarter of the oil rigs operating there shut down as a precaution.
“That’s definitely had an impact” on prices, Hanni said.
Gas was commonly $3.74 or $3.75 a gallon on Tuesday, up at least 8 cents from the day before. A month ago, gas was $3.46 a gallon in Wichita, Hanni said. A year ago it was $3.51.
The average retail price for a gallon of gasoline in the U.S. rose to a four-month high of $3.75 on Monday, and it could pass $3.80 by Labor Day weekend, says Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Isaac became a Category 1 hurricane Tuesday with winds of 75 mph. It could get stronger by the time it’s expected to reach the swampy coast of southeast Louisiana.
About one-quarter of the nation’s oil is produced in the Gulf of Mexico. More than 90 percent of its oil production had been suspended by late Tuesday, and companies had evacuated more than 500 oil and gas production platforms and drilling rigs, according to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.
The higher gas prices aren’t crimping holiday travel plans, AAA research shows.
Two out of every three people surveyed said higher gas prices won’t affect their holiday travel plans, Hanni said.
Seymour Mitchell of Wichita wasn’t involved in the survey, but like most of those asked, he has no intentions of changing his plans. He has tickets to Kansas State’s season opener on Saturday, and he’ll be in Manhattan no matter how much gas costs.
But Mitchell admitted he may have to make some changes to his itinerary because gas is more expensive.
“Skimping on the food, not the beer,” he said via Twitter.
Travelers using the turnpike would be wise to monitor the Kansas Turnpike Authority’s website for news about fuel availability over the next few days at least.
The Towanda service area was out of both gasoline and diesel fuel Tuesday, and the Matfield Green service area had gasoline but no diesel, said Lisa Callahan, a spokeswoman for the Turnpike Authority.
“We’re working with them to get fuel,” Callahan said.
The shortages weren’t connected to Isaac, she said. They were connected to issues with the supplier.
About a half-dozen Phillips 66 stations in the Kansas City area also had no fuel. But Alissa Hicks, a spokeswoman for Phillips 66, said the problem wasn’t fuel shortages but financial difficulties of PCF Saleco, which operates the stations.
Callahan said motorists planning to use the turnpike should check the Turnpike Authority’s home page for updates on the fuel situation at service centers so they don’t pull up to a closed fuel pump with the gauge sitting on empty.
“It is a long stretch there” between service centers in the Flint Hills, she said.
Motorists can also go to the authority’s mobile website to see messages posted on the digital message boards along the turnpike, or sign up to receive text messages about emergencies and travel information.
Turnpike Authority officials expect to have the fuel issues resolved before Labor Day weekend arrives, Callahan said.
Contributing: Kansas City Star and Associated Press