CHARLOTTE, N.C. (September 8, 2017) – Early Friday morning the National Hurricane Center downgraded Hurricane Irma to a Category 4 storm, but warned that the storm remains "extremely dangerous" as it approaches the U.S. mainland. With both North and South Carolina issuing state of emergencies, AAA Carolinas is monitoring Irma to keep travelers informed.
"We want to arm our members and the public with as much helpful information as possible during Hurricane Irma," said AAA Carolinas president and CEO Dave Parsons. "Whether Carolinians are traveling by road, air or boat, we want to make sure we are a resource for any travel concerns. We urge everyone in the storm's path to follow all official orders and advisories."
AAA CAROLINAS TRAVEL UPDATE:
Road Travel/Gas Prices
Motorists will most likely experience congestion this weekend as traffic volume is expected to heavily increase from residents in Irma's path who are traveling north.
For all road closures and evacuation routes follow The Department of Transportation for updated information.
North Carolina -
South Carolina -
AAA advises avoiding driving during storms or high winds and driving through standing water and flooded roads. Motorists forced to travel during storm conditions should drive with their headlights on and reduce speed to account for wet roads. Every vehicle should be equipped with an emergency kit.
Right now gas prices are the highest they've been in more than two years. In North Carolina, the statewide average is currently $2.63 – a 40 cent spike since Hurricane Harvey hit. In South Carolina, the statewide average is currently $2.55– a 45 cent jump. Hurricane Irma may push them even higher.
In the coming days, Florida and the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina can expect to see motorists flocking to gas stations to fill up their gas tanks. This buying could worsen already tight supply levels along the Colonial Pipeline from Alabama to Virginia. Currently the pipeline is experiencing a backlog of deliveries (five to seven day delay) stemming from low product supply caused by Harvey. As Texas refineries continue to increase operating rates, it may take a while for the Colonial Pipeline to ramp up to normal volume and catch up with all deliveries.
Oil refinery and pipeline shut downs are not a major concern, as there are no facilities in Irma's projected path. Instead, gasoline supply and distribution are top of mind. Port Everglades, which is the main seaport servicing South Florida with petroleum products, stated that it has at least a week of fuel stored on-site. However, according to the Port's website, "port petroleum operations may be interrupted in the event of storm damage to Port facilities or the entrance channel for ships."
It's important to note that similar to Harvey, there would not be a gasoline shortage in the U.S., but instead there could be an issue of getting gasoline supplies to impacted regions, especially if Irma causes power outages and makes streets and roadways impassable.
Overall, the potential storm-related increase in gas buying in the coming days combined with delivery delays will likely cause gas prices to continue increasing into the weekend.
As always, AAA Emergency Roadside Assistance is prepared to assist members in their time of need during Hurricane Irma and everyday.
Many airlines are waiving change fees and issuing changes to rebooking policies as a result of the storm. The following websites will provide passengers with the departures and destinations that are accepting flight changes at this time.
Additionally, Key West International Airport has closed due to TSA ceasing the screening of airline passengers. All commercial flights are canceled as of this morning until further notice.
Several cruise lines have altered itineraries and/or canceled voyages in response to Hurricane Irma. Some cruise lines plan to alter their course to avoid any storm danger. For cruises that are canceled due to the hurricane, most cruise lines are providing full refunds to passengers plus a future cruise credit if they rebook. For the latest cruise travel alerts, please visit:
AAA Carolinas, an affiliate of the American Automobile Association, is a not-for-profit organization that serves more than 2.1 million members and the public with travel, automobile and insurance services while being an advocate for the safety and security of all travelers.