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Hurricane predictions signal good news for your gas tank

Ethan Wolff-Mann
Senior Writer
This Monday, Sept. 4, 2017 shows the gas price at a pump in Richmond, Va. Gas prices have spiked in the wake of Hurricane Harvey’s assault on the Gulf Coast. (Joe Mahoney/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)

Gas prices in the U.S. have ticked up over 50 cents since last August, worrying drivers and putting the cost of a gallon well over the pain point of $3.00 in some regions.

However, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) recent sigh of relief about this year’s hurricane season signals good news for anyone needing to fill up.

In a statement last week, NOAA forecasters said that the likelihood of a below-normal Atlantic hurricane season is now 60%, up from 25% in May. (The chance of a normal season is now 30%, and above-normal is 10%.)

The forecasters cited changing conditions in the ocean and atmosphere.

According to Patrick DeHaan, GasBuddy’s head of petroleum analysis, this doesn’t mean gas prices will go down as a result, but they’re now less likely to have any big spikes.

There’s not really a downside to gas prices in the situation where NOAA reduces expectations for an above-average hurricane season, but it lowers the chance of gas prices spiking in the case of a hurricane,” DeHaan told Yahoo Finance.

Hurricanes often affect gas prices, as refineries, drilling operations, and other bits of key infrastructure can be hit by the storms, causing outages. DeHaan noted that gas prices soared 40 cents per gallon last year during hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and the impact lasted several months.

“The Gulf region has the most refining capacity of any region in the country, so it’s a sensitive area to be hit, and could lead to higher gas prices like it did last year,” said DeHaan.

But with just two weeks left in “summer driving season,” a period that ends Labor Day weekend, prices will see the natural relief as demand falls. Then, DeHaan says, the country transitions to “non-summer” gasoline prices, which should provide more relief. “With no hurricanes/catalyst for prices to jump, we should see prices trend lower.”

Ethan Wolff-Mann is a writer at Yahoo Finance focusing on consumer issues, retail, personal finance, and more. Follow him on Twitter @ewolffmann.

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