Experts say gas prices could soon go down, but fuel remains scarce in parts of Florida

HUNTSVILLE. Ala - As the country continues to recover from recent hurricanes, gas experts say you can soon expect gas prices in the Tennessee Valley start to decline once more.

GasBuddy.com's Senior Petroleum Analyst, Dan McTeague, said both storms packed a powerful punch on prices.

"It was a double whammy," he said. "We were reeling from the first punch from Harvey on the gasoline side, and Irma didn't help."

He said it was the flooding at refineries that created a big problem following Harvey. While some refineries are coming back online, it is a slow process.

"It's the flooding that continues to keep some of the refineries from coming back to full production. They have to take a lot of time to do this. They don't want accidents with monitoring certain components that could have been exposed to water for extended periods of time. So for that reason we are seeing prices stubbornly remain where they are," he explained. "That's likely to tumble, but not for the foreseeable future.

Irma's damage to gas stations, or power lines that supply them with electricity, is also a factor in Florida. McTeague said demand continues to play a role but is expected to normalize soon.

"I think that's one of the reasons we may see elevated prices, at least for the next couple of weeks," he said.

But how soon can we expect to see gas prices begin to decrease?

"Potentially by the weekend and into Monday and Tuesday, prices slowly but surely will trickle down here in Huntsville and across Alabama," said McTeague.

"I would be happy that the gas price is not as close to my GPA as to what it is!" joked Emma Bray-Garcia. "Save the college students!" she shouted, in anticipation of fuel prices dipping.

Some did not mind the higher prices as much.

"It's not been too bad," said Christopher Murphy. "I've been getting some overtime, and that helps."

But the hope remains the same for all we spoke with Tuesday: "I hope that it will go back down and it will go back down soon," said Steve Hernandez.

Impact on Floridians Tuesday

Tuesday, some people in Fort Lauderdale waited an hour and a half to fill up the tank.

Some say they were in line behind 50-60 cars to wait for a chance to get gasoline. Some said that they were not able to fill up before Irma hit, as many gas stations ran out of gas.

As many who evacuated are eager to begin the journey to go back and see how their property fared during the storm, Governor Rick Scott urges residents to wait a little bit longer to return.

Traffic is expected to be heavy and gasoline continues to be scarce in some areas.

"Don't proceed without knowing if you can actually make it," said McTeague. "If you find gasoline, buy what you need, wait a few days and buy it again. The system will start to reboot. This is going to take a few days before we start to see maximum and optimum amounts of fuel sent to every gas station but in the meantime I think we are in a better situation today."

He said that in Alabama along the routes to Florida, shortages are not a major concern.

But McTeague recommends evacuees check GasBuddy's tracker site before leaving to go back home to see if gas stations along the route have fuel and power.

Price Gouging Complaints

Last week the Alabama Attorney General's Office issued a warning against those who choose to gouge prices in the wake of each powerful storm. Governor Kay Ivey declared a state of emergency also. That's when price gouging law goes into effect.

Tuesday, we asked how many complaints the office had received.

A spokeswoman wrote back:

"The Attorney General`s Consumer Interest Division has received 32 fuel-related price gouging written complaints opened between August 28 and September 12. In addition to these written complaints, we have received approximately 100 calls related to price gouging during that same time frame. All but two concerned the cost of fuel. The other two were regarding concerns about hotels overcharges. It should be noted that some of these calls and complaints may involve the same entities."

She said complaints have been made by consumers in Autauga, Baldwin, Blount, Chambers, Cherokee, Cleburne, Elmore, Etowah, Fayette, Geneva, Houston, Jackson, Jefferson, Lawrence, Lee, Limestone, Madison, Marion, Montgomery, Russell, Shelby, and Tallapoosa Counties, as well as a couple from consumers who are from out-of-state. The list, she said, may not always reflect where the alleged violation took place.

The Attorney General's Office will look into each complaint and review it. As a policy, they will not comment about whether a particular complaint or location may be under investigation.