The monstrous storm that has begun pounding the Florida Panhandle has slashed toward land east of the nation’s energy hub – the concentration of oil rigs and refineries that dot the Gulf of Mexico and coastline to the west of the storm.
While that offers little comfort to those whose lives are in peril, Hurricane Michael has taken a path that is not likely to disrupt one of the nation’s most vital energy hubs – facilities that serve much of the eastern United States, including Atlanta.
At the fringes of the ferocious storm, some facilities will likely close, but are expected to escape the kind of serious damage that would jack up gasoline prices or limit the amount of gas available.
Storms that battered or flooded the infrastructure of oil production and gasoline refining – like hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Irma and Harvey – sent gas prices up in some cases and cut supplies in others.
This storm has already surprised forecasters with its terrifyingly rapid growth from tropical depression to Category Four hurricane.
And even if its path follows current predictions, there are several big unknowns about the storm’s impact on energy:
-- Will it damage the pipelines that carry gasoline and diesel fuel eastward from the refineries of Texas and Louisiana?
-- Will its winds and water make so many roadways to be impassable that gasoline tanker trucks cannot get to local gas stations?
-- Will the storm do damage to thousands of gas stations through the region or cut the power they need to operate?