New Jersey Feels Impact of Hurricane Harvey on Texas

Storm’s Floods, Winds, and Surge in Texas Helps Raise Prices at the Pump

For much of the summer, gas prices at the stations that I go to near my home in Northwestern Middlesex County, have been around $2.35 to $2.40 per gallon. However, over the past week, those prices have risen significantly as a result of the devastating floods to Houston and Beaumont along the Texas coast.

Rainfall amounts around the Houston metropolitan area from Harvey’s deluge totaled as high as nearly 52 inches (Cedar Bayou). Meanwhile, Beaumont, which is further to the east along the Texas coast, received 26 inches in 24 hours. In addition, towns along the middle Texas coast such as Rockport are reeling from wind and storm surge related damage. The largest oil refinery in the United States was forced to shut down, and there was an explosion at chemical plant in Crosby, Texas.

As a result, gas prices across the country have jumped since the ability to get the supply out to meet the intense demand for driving during the summer months, has been hampered. Here in South Plainfield, NJ, the Shell Station on Stelton Road was $2.35 before the hurricane, rose to $2.39 per gallon on Tuesday, $2.47 a gallon on Wednesday, and was at $2.69 per gallon by Saturday. Further north, the gas prices were even higher.

At the Shell Station on Route 206 North in Bedminster in Northern Somerset County, the price for regular was the highest that I’ve seen yet at $2.99 per gallon. Up the road in Chester in Morris County, the price for regular at the Shell along 206 North there was up to $2.71 per gallon. Then, in Mount Olive, the Shell along 206 North there was up to $2.81 per gallon. Further up the road, an Exxon charged $2.89 per gallon. Passing Lake Hopatcong, the price of gas at a Shell in Byram was at $2.93 per gallon.

Before arriving in Newton and Sparta in Sussex County to see a high school football game at Pope John XXIII High school, I passed another Shell Station on Route 206 North that charged a surprisingly more inexpensive $2.75 per gallon for regular. Expect the gas prices to remain high for a while as refineries in the Houston, Port Arthur, and East Texas areas continue to recover from the aftermath of the devastation wrought by Harvey.

Some experts indicate that the gas prices will probably come down to around $2.00 per gallon again by winter, but I have my doubts about that. The damage caused by Harvey is immense. Early damage estimates range from $190 billion according to Accu-Weather to as high as $330 billion. Even on the low side, Harvey’s damage far exceeds that caused by Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana and Mississippi back in the last week of August 2005.

The key to the fate of these gas prices will depend largely on how quickly the damaged refineries and plants in Eastern Texas can get back online. Houston and New Orleans have always been vulnerable cities to tropical storms and hurricanes partly because of the oil and gas refineries that are situated in those two cities. Houston has dealt with a similar situation before in June 2001 with Tropical Storm Allison that brought up to 35 inches of rain.

Rainfall from Harvey was much higher with the amounts at Cedar Bayou surpassing those set in 1978 by Hurricane Amelia. So, it could be a tough climb, which could be a bitter pill to swallow for New Jersey residents, who have had to deal with the institution of a 23 cent per gallon gas tax late last year.