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Americans Could Feel Ida's Impact At The Gas Pump

Out of order notes are left on gas pumps to warn motorists of outages Hollywood, Calif. on May 12, 2021, immediately after the Colonial Pipeline shutdown. Two of its lines were temporarily shut down ahead of Hurricane Ida this weekend.
Out of order notes are left on gas pumps to warn motorists of outages Hollywood, Calif. on May 12, 2021, immediately after the Colonial Pipeline shutdown. Two of its lines were temporarily shut down ahead of Hurricane Ida this weekend.

Updated August 30, 2021 at 12:54 PM ET

Hundreds of thousands of people are without power in Louisiana and Mississippi, and outages could last for more than a month in parts of the region.

While the damage is most acute there, motorists across the U.S. could feel some effects of the storm when they go to fill up their tanks in the days ahead.

More than 95% of Gulf oil production was shut down ahead of Ida, and every active drilling rig fully evacuated. Rigs and platforms will be able to start back up quickly if they survived the storm unscathed, but it could take much longer if equipment was broken.

The storm likely took some 13% of U.S. refining capacity offline, AAA estimates. At least nine refineries preemptively paused or reduced their operations, which could temporarily affect gasoline availability.

"Until the power is restored, it's too early to know the full impact of any damage Ida caused on the oil and gas industry, but motorists regionally can expect price fluctuations leading into Labor Day weekend," said AAA spokesperson Jeanette McGee said in a release. "Typically, a Category 4 storm could mean three plus weeks before refineries are back to normal operations, while offshore production is more likely to resume this week."

Colonial Pipeline — which memorably shut down in May after a ransomware attack — shut down two lines that run from Houston to Greensboro, N.C., before the storm, and said it would restore full service after an infrastructure inspection.

"Gas prices nationally, especially in the Southeast and East Coast, will see minimal impact at the pump if the pipeline is down for a matter of hours versus days," AAA added.

Markets seem unconcerned about crude oil supplies, though gasoline futures are up over concerns about the refineries.

AAA is also expecting a reduction in demand immediately following the storm, because of power outages and road closures. Louisiana officials are asking people to avoid unnecessary travel as recovery efforts and damage assessments begin.


This story originally appeared on the Morning Edition live blog.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.