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Atlantic storm season starts early, putting energy industry on notice

Tropical Storm Arlene, only the second named Atlantic Ocean April storm in history, dissipated during the weekend, letting a region that saw 2.5 million consumers lose power last year breathe easier.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Atlantic storm season starts early, putting energy industry on notice
Tropical storm Arlene grew weaker during the weekend, but may signal an early start to the Atlantic hurricane season. File photo courtesy of NASA | License Photo

April 24 (UPI) -- Atlantic hurricane season can cause power outages and high gas prices for consumers and the year is off early with Tropical Storm Arlene, forecasters note.

Arlene was only the second such tropical storm observed in April in the Atlantic Ocean. Forecasters for the U.S. National Hurricane Center said Friday that detecting a storm as weak as Arlene was "practically impossible" before the modern weather-satellite era.

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Genscape, which provides energy market data, said power plants may be affected differently as the season moves closer to its official start.

"As production continues to shift to inland regions and hurricane activity in the Gulf remains below average, Genscape is seeing the impact from hurricanes shift from production-destruction to impacting demand through shifts in temperatures," it said in a commentary on Arlene.

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Hurricane Matthew was a Category 3 storm when it hit the east coast of Florida in early October. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimated about 2.5 million residential, commercial, and industrial electricity customers lost power across five states because of Matthew.

Motor club AAA reported that Matthew forced the closure of fuel terminals in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. Most of the coastal ports reopened in the region by the time remnants of Matthew moved out to sea, however the storm caused short-term gasoline shortages and skewed the national average price at the pump higher.

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In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, regional governors in the northeastern states impacted by the storm enacted gasoline rationing programs, by which motorists were eligible to buy fuel based on license-plate numbers

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At the peak, roughly 8.5 million customers were without power because of Hurricane Sandy, a Category 1 storm.

The remnants of Arlene dissipated during the weekend. The official Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30.

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