Gas prices hit hardest by hurricane

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Weathering Hurricane Dennis was no breeze, but most marine business owners along Florida’s panhandle and the Alabama coast are breathing a sigh of relief.

Though Dennis took a path similar to that carved by Hurricane Ivan just last year, it was smaller, weaker, faster moving and hit land in a less populated area. The hurricane had slowed to a Category 3 with 120-mph winds by the time it reached the coastline on Sunday. Insurers are estimating that Dennis caused between $1 billion and $3 billion in insured losses vs. the $7 billion in insured damage caused by Ivan.

Though many businesses are likely to be undergoing minor repairs and clean-up, the only marina that we know has been devastated by the storm is that of the Renaissance Vinoy Resort in St. Petersburg. The marina’s floating docks are beyond repair after being smashed by 4-to 5-foot waves that traveled across Tampa Bay, Vinoy harbormaster Howard Kornack told the St. Petersburg Times.

The resort is hoping the town will install a breakwater to prevent such damage from happening again, should the marina be rebuilt, reported the newspaper in an article today. However, whether the city will decide it is in the public’s interest to invest in protecting a private marina remains to be seen.

Gas prices rising

Perhaps the most widespread impact of the hurricane is rising gas prices.

As of Monday, analysts were already reporting a record high average of $2.33 per gallon, and that average will likely move higher this week over concern that summer hurricanes will disrupt gas deliveries. One analyst told USA Today that he expects a peak average of $2.38 this summer.

And, of course, gas prices at marinas are even higher and could hit $3 per gallon this summer. Though many industry insiders dismiss the impact of gas prices on boat usage and boat sales, these prices may not fall back below $1 per gallon – ever.

The cost per gallon of oil, from which gasoline is made, is unlikely to drop significantly as it is based largely on “competition from growing economies for ever-scarcer oil,” an energy expert told USA Today. This competition is only expected to increase.

Gas prices – like hurricanes – are out of the industry’s control. All that marine businesses can do is prepare as best they can and hope for the best.

Hope is a familiar emotion for Floridians. Hurricane Dennis was the fifth hurricane to hit Florida over the past 11 months. Now, the state’s marine businesses are hoping Dennis is the worst of a hurricane season that has just begun.

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