Area returning to normal

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Irma left damage in its wake

By Jim Clark

The area continues to recover from the effects from Hurricane Irma, which had lost its clout by the time it reached our area.

All surrounding weather stations report a lack of hurricane force winds in the area. However, the statistics for wind at the Ocala station could not be found, and it appears that the wind reports are not available.

Gainesville reported wind gusts to 61, and The Villages at 54. No tornadoes were reported in the area.

Rainfall was about 10 inches.

As of Monday, store shelves were being replenished, and gas lines had all but disappeared, although there were a few stations without supplies.

Most roads were cleared although County Road 328 in northwest Marion County had severe damage.

Companies such as Duke Energy, SECO and Ocala Electric reported that outages had dwindled. On Monday, SECO reported 99 percent of its customers had power, and on Tuesday, Ocala Electric Utility had finished all restoration efforts.

Tragically there were three deaths reported. Two occurred in accidents at intersections with inoperative traffic lights, and the other was a 10-year-old boy killed in a house fire in Ocklawaha.

Schools were back in session.

According to AAA, gasoline availability continues to improve after Hurricane Irma drove-up demand and left many gas stations without fuel. A steady stream of ships delivering gasoline to Florida’s ports are helping to normalize supply levels in the southeastern U.S., and gas prices are drifting a little lower.

Last week, gasoline hit the highest price in three years. During that time in 2014, oil was (and usually is) the main driver of pump prices, as crude traded between $65-$75 per barrel. This year, hurricanes became the catalyst. Although oil prices hovered around $46-$49/b, the average price for gasoline in Florida shot up 46 cents, since Aug. 22.

“Hurricanes Harvey and Irma delivered a 1-2 punch on gas prices in the southeastern U.S.,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman, AAA - The Auto Club Group. “Prices surged when Hurricane Harvey caused refinery outages along the Gulf Coast. As refineries recovered, gas prices should have begun to decline after Labor Day, but the arrival of hurricane Irma caused a surge in demand, preventing the impending plunge.

“Gas prices are poised to plummet 30 cents,” Jenkins continued. “It will not happen overnight, as pump prices decline much slower than they rise. Plus, the threat of any new storms making landfall in the United States would compromise the collapse. However, motorists should see gas prices decline through the end of the month, and possibly reach the lowest point of the year in Q4.”