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As gas prices rise, residents more reluctant to evacuate ahead of hurricanes

By Adriana Navarro, Accuweather.com
A Boynton Beach, Fla., resident fills four gas cans in preparation for Hurricane Dorian on August 29, 2019. A new survey says that people in hurricane-prone areas say they'd be more reluctant to evacuate due to higher gas prices. File Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/b589f1cd87f26a0f8ecf740cf6481fdf/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
A Boynton Beach, Fla., resident fills four gas cans in preparation for Hurricane Dorian on August 29, 2019. A new survey says that people in hurricane-prone areas say they'd be more reluctant to evacuate due to higher gas prices. File Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI | License Photo

June 8 -- Motorists across the United States are hard-pressed to find gas prices below $4.30, and a recent survey found that the soaring prices could influence whether Florida residents evacuate or stay put during an approaching storm threat over the next few months.

On Wednesday, AAA said the average for gas prices in Florida was $4.77 per gallon -- which is roughly 15 cents higher than it is in Texas, the Gulf State with the second-highest average.

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The national average for a gallon of gasoline was about $4.95 on Wednesday, about three cents higher than Tuesday.

"Unfortunately, the pain at the pump is likely to get even worse this week," AAA spokesperson Mark Jenkins said in a statement Monday.

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"At this rate, it sure seems like there's very little resistance to rising prices at the pump, and $5 a gallon is quickly becoming a very real possibility this summer."

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The average national cost of a gallon, which stood at $4.86 on Monday, rose by nearly 10 cents overnight.

U.S consumers have so far defied higher prices for gas, food and rent and have been spending more in 2022, providing crucial support to the economy. How long that can continue will be one of the key factors affecting the economy and inflation this year. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI

The rising pain of gas prices may also construct the options for Florida residents this hurricane season.

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About 42% of respondents in a recent AAA survey said that high prices and the availability of gas would make them less willing to evacuate their homes if recommended to do so this hurricane season, which forecasters are expecting to be active again.

One in four respondents in Florida said they would ignore hurricane evacuation warnings altogether.

Major hurricanes seemed to be one threat that would convince Floridians to evacuate, with 60% saying they would leave only if they were in the path of a hurricane that's at Category 3 or stronger.

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"Prices at the pump are likely to remain high throughout the summer," Jenkins added. "So, if you're worried about evacuation costs, it may be a good idea to start setting aside some money now."

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In the past, hurricanes have also contributed to a rise in gas prices after carving through offshore rigs and refineries, many of which are located throughout the Gulf of Mexico.

About 65% of the gasoline used along the East Coast and 15% of the crude oil run in refineries in the Midwest was shipped from the U.S. Gulf Coast, according to 2020 data from the Energy Information Administration, meaning a shortage due to a hurricane can impact more than just the areas in the path of the storm.

Most offshore platforms are designed to endure strong winds and towering waves from hurricanes, with those built since 1988 designed to withstand "100-year storms," including Category 5 hurricanes, according to the National Ocean Industries Association.

To address flooding threats, standards set by the Bureau of Safety and Environment Enforcement require platform decks to exceed the average height of hurricane-driven waves, which is generally estimated to reach 80 feet.

The U.S. Coast Guard conducts an overflight to survey damage following Hurricane Laura near Orange, Texas, on August 27, 2020. File Photo by PO3 Paige Hause/U.S. Coast Guard/UPI

The new designs proved their durability in 2005, when hurricanes Katrina and Rita destroyed a total of 113 platforms, of which 108 were built before 1988. The pre-1988 facilities represented only 1.5% of total Gulf of Mexico production at the time, according to NOIA. Even if damage to facilities is limited, however, hurricanes can still result in production loss as it takes time for operations to resume after an evacuation.

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In 2005, gas prices across the U.S. surged by as much as 40 cents a gallon for a few days, a brief spike that was blamed on disruptions caused by Hurricane Katrina meddling with Gulf of Mexico oil production.

Hurricane Katrina shut down about 95% of oil production in the Gulf -- a region that delivers about a quarter of domestic oil across the U.S., NBC News reported at the time.

In 2017, Hurricane Harvey passed through a corner of the Alaminos Canyon offshore production area as a Category 4 hurricane, resulting in the loss of 6% of crude oil and 7% of natural gas production in the Gulf Coast for the month of August over the course of 13 days, according to the EIA. Nearly a week after landfall, retail prices for gas had risen by about 14 cents.

But while Harvey was a major hurricane, Category 1 Hurricane Nate in 2017 caused a larger impact on oil rigs. Nate passed through the Mississippi Canyon offshore production area before making landfall at the mouth of the Mississippi River. The storm resulted in 18% and 15% of the total October Gulf of Mexico crude oil and natural gas production, respectively, not due to its strength, but due to its path, the EIA said.

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While Nate impacted oil rigs, it was a fast-moving storm and didn't interfere much with the flow of fuel to market, GasBuddy senior petroleum analyst Patrick DeHaan said in a statement.

DeHaan added that the nation had a large supply of crude oil at the time, so the storm didn't cause enough stress to greatly impact oil prices.

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