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Westmoreland

Western Pa. gas prices surge higher in wake of Harvey

| Friday, Sept. 1, 2017, 11:00 a.m.
Charles Kirchner of Greensburg fills up a gasoline container while purchasing fuel at a station on South Main Street on Friday, Sept. 1, 2017, in South Greensburg.
Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Charles Kirchner of Greensburg fills up a gasoline container while purchasing fuel at a station on South Main Street on Friday, Sept. 1, 2017, in South Greensburg.
The cost of a gallon of regular gasoline at a BP station in Greensburg was $2.99 on Friday, Sept. 1, 2017.
Renatta Signorini | Tribune-Review
The cost of a gallon of regular gasoline at a BP station in Greensburg was $2.99 on Friday, Sept. 1, 2017.
The cost of a gallon of regular gasoline at a Sheetz station in Greensburg was $2.75 on Friday, Sept. 1, 2017.
Renatta Signorini | Tribune-Review
The cost of a gallon of regular gasoline at a Sheetz station in Greensburg was $2.75 on Friday, Sept. 1, 2017.

Hurricane Harvey didn't hit Pennsylvania directly, but the storm is costing Pennsylvanians at the pump.

Eugene Young said he likely won't venture far from his Pittsburgh home this weekend as a result.

“If these (gas) prices continue to rise, I won't travel much at all,” Young said as he put $10 worth of gas into his pickup Friday at the Marathon gas station in Pittsburgh's Homewood neighborhood, where regular unleaded gasoline was selling for $2.79 a gallon.

Young said his Chevrolet pickup gets about eight miles per gallon.

The national and local average for regular gas rose overnight Thursday from $2.45 to $2.52 per gallon amid continuing fears of shortages in Texas and other states in the aftermath of the hurricane's strike on the Gulf Coast.

Harvey's historic flooding knocked one-fifth of the nation's refining capacity offline, according to S&P Global Platts. So far, 13 oil refineries in Texas have shut down or are in the process of shutting down and others reduced operations, national news outlets reported. Two major pipelines carrying gasoline across southern states and up to the East Coast and New York also shut down or slowed because of flooding and damage.

The Energy Department tapped into its Strategic Petroleum Reserve on Thursday, sending 500,000 barrels of oil to a refinery in Lake Charles, La.

In the Pittsburgh area, the average price rose to $2.73 Friday afternoon, according to price-tracking website GasBuddy.com.

Mike Jamison, owner of a gas station in Greensburg, said he raised his gas prices by 10 cents a gallon.

“I really don't follow what goes on,” he said from inside his trucking and auto repair station. “I just go by my prices and go from there.”

Jamison said he gets updated prices nightly from his gasoline supplier. He typically waits until the station is getting low on gasoline before ordering another shipment when the prices start to go up.

“I think if it goes up any more, it'll be within the 10 cents,” he said.

There's not much drivers can do, Ed Wyland of Greensburg said.

“It's inevitable. It's no big deal,” he said.

The rising prices came as a surprise to Leticia Hernandez of Lake Station, Ind., who planned to spend much of her day Friday on the road. She was filling up at the Sunoco station on Rodi Road in Penn Hills, where gas prices were $2.89 a gallon.

“I wasn't really expecting to pay more,” Hernandez said after putting about six gallons into a car that she rented to drive to Western Pennsylvania to pick up a car she bought. She planned to pick up the new car and make the six-hour drive home Friday.

Giant Eagle spokesperson Dick Roberts said the hurricane has had a “notable impact” on refinery operations, especially in the Gulf Coast.

“As a result, (Giant Eagle-owned) GetGo and other area fuel retailers are experiencing cost increases that are unfortunately having an impact on prices at the pump,” Roberts wrote in an email.

Roberts said it's hard to know how long Harvey will impact fuel costs, but GetGo will work to limit dramatic spikes in cost throughout the weekend and near future.

Gas prices rose at least 15 cents in 24 hours in several metropolitan areas, including Dallas; El Paso, Texas; Athens, Georgia; and Dayton, Ohio, AAA reported Friday. Drivers in Dallas lined up at gas pumps Thursday as some stations ran out of fuel. Prices for a regular gallon of gas there ranged from $2.99 to $3.97 Thursday.

The average price of a gallon of gas had soared by at least 10 cents in eight states since Thursday: South Carolina, Ohio, Delaware, Maryland, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia and Texas.

Analysts are cautioning drivers not to panic as some gas stations run low on gasoline.

If people start hoarding gas, as some have in Texas, “that's going to make the problem worse, and prices shoot higher and the event will last longer, with more disruption and shortages,” said Patrick DeHaan, an analyst with GasBuddy.com.

His advice: “Try to have a sense of calm.”

Dillon Carr and Renatta Signorini are Tribune-Review staff writers. Reach Carr at 412-871-2325, dcarr@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dillonswriting. Reach Signorini at 724-837-5374, rsignorini@tribweb.com or via Twitter @byrenatta.

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