How Disasters Like Irma & Harvey Impact the Price of Gas

The last decade has seen some of the most devastating natural disasters in recent memory. In fact, in 2017, the United States and its neighboring countries experienced two separate Category 4-5 hurricanes — Harvey and Irma — back-to-back, while several other hurricanes rampaged in the Atlantic basin.

While any natural disaster can occur at any time given the right conditions, hurricanes typically form during a specific confluence of weather events, creating what is known as “hurricane season.”

Based on years of study and observance, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) officially identifies the beginning of hurricane season on June 1 and its end on Nov. 30. While these storms are unpredictable overall, this model has held for some time, with the peak of the season varying by geography.

The reason the NHC tracks hurricanes with such determination comes from their relative frequency —   occurring more often than earthquakes or volcanic eruptions — and the effect these storms have on the populace and the economy.

Earthquakes, floods, typhoons, eruptions and hurricanes all cause serious damage to population settlements of all kinds. Even an advanced metropolis can be ravaged by severe weather violence. This damage does not only affect physical people and structures, but the economy as well. Natural disasters damage and destroy tangible assets like buildings, equipment and agriculture, as well as the human workforce, deteriorating production. For example, one of the major industries affected by hurricanes is gas and diesel commerce.

In the U.S., the seasonal changes of the year already affect fuel commerce, so unplanned events like severe weather, such as hurricanes, are definitely factors on gas prices. Even a hurricane warning will trigger an increase in demand and, in turn, raise prices. Events such as these shut down refineries, disrupt gasoline and reduce supply, which causes a strain on the remaining supply.

According to the Minerals Management Service, Hurricane Katrina, which struck the Gulf Coast in 2005, caused a severe reduction in supply. By 11:30 a.m. Central Time Aug. 31, 2005, the Gulf of Mexico’s oil production had decreased by more than 1.371 mb/d — millions of barrels per day — as a result of Hurricane Katrina. That figure is equivalent to about 91.45 percent of daily Gulf of Mexico oil production, which is 1.5 mb/d.

Hurricanes are literally a growing threat to the automotive and transportation industries. They do not begin as Category 4 and 5 storms, but rather grow into those massive and devastating hurricanes. When they make landfall, these storms will have already caused significant damage to oil drilling platforms in the ocean, forcing worker evacuations which last for months on end and ceasing the production of oil drilling and delivery to the U.S.

By the time these violent storms appear on the coast and rampage through cities and towns, the supply of gasoline will have already become stagnant, and any and all resupply will be stalled for months, or even years.

2017’s Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are both classified as Category 5 storms, meaning the damage they inflicted on the offshore oil production was undeniably brutal, and the subsequent damage to the mainland supply was even worse. That doesn’t even bring into consideration all the thousands of flood cars that will soon hit the market.

For obvious reasons, it’s easy to overlook the financial and economic effects of natural weather damage during the disaster event, but we shouldn’t ignore them.

As people come to terms with the loss of their homes, possessions and communities, it’s important they make plans for the upcoming financial burdens and hardships that will arise regarding simple amenities. The “everyday things” like filling up your vehicle with fuel suddenly become difficult or more expensive, and people should know why. Also, during preparation, many people neglect such financial burdens. If you know a massive hurricane is coming to your area, try storing extra gas along with your emergency food and water rations.

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