If Harvey hammers Texas refineries, look out for gas shortages, price hikes in NC


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Although Harvey is thousands of miles away, gas stations in eastern North Carolina have a direct connection to what’s happening there because they ultimately get their fuel via a pipeline that stretches all the way to Texas.

Houston refineries feed the Colonial Pipeline which delivers most of the area’s fuel. And as we learned back in 2016, if the fuel in Colonial Pipeline is interrupted at the southern end, we could see disruptions.

As Harvey bears down on one of the country’s major drilling and refinery areas, those who live in the Southeast have to start worrying about the gas supply drying up.

“Whether or not we see fuel rationing or feel disruption is contingent on what happens in Houston with the refineries there,” GasBuddy’s Pat DeHaan told CBS North Carolina.

“If there’s a lot of damage and long-lasting damage, that will have a major impact on gas prices moving toward,” says DeHaan.

We’ve lived through this before. In September and November of 2016, you might recall how the Colonial Pipeline gasoline flow was disrupted, and prices skyrocketed as stations ran out of fuel.

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Driver Candice Jones recalls last pipeline shortage.

“There were a lot of lines,” she said. “Some people weren’t fortunate to get gas. It was out and hard to find.”

Gas prices have already risen nearly a dime since yesterday, as some refineries in Corpus Christie shut down in advance of the hurricane.

“We haven’t had an increase in our pumps yet as far as passing it on to customers, but that will be expected at the beginning of the week because it will be up across the board,” says Seth McKinney of North Hills Exxon in Raleigh.

Recalling the 2016 disruption, some drivers are already planning ahead.

“I’m going to try and conserve and check Facebook and the news to see what stations have gas and I’ll keep a half tank or more,” says driver Leigh-Ann Kerr.

And experts remind drivers that they have a lot of control over how high prices may go and how bad the shortage may be.

“Buy only what you need, buy a few gallons at a time. That will alleviate supply issues and keep the prices lower in the long run,” says DeHaan.

By Monday, we should have a better sense of how much damage has happened in Houston and what that will do to the fuel supply here.

If you want to keep track of the gasoline situation over the weekend, use this link to GasBuddy’s tracking service.

Email CBS North Carolina’s Steve Sbraccia if you have a consumer issue.

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