Harvey to push gas prices higher through Labor Day weekend

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The impact from Harvey will still be felt in the days and months to come, and that includes the upcoming Labor Day holiday weekend.

Usually as summer comes to an end, gas prices begin to fall. But this year, gas prices are rising as Hurricane Harvey has interrupted oil refineries and distribution along the Gulf Coast.

"I just noticed it was $2.99. I haven't seen it that high in a long time," Antoine Hunt said.

Gas was $2.99 a gallon at the BP gas station in the South Loop Wednesday. A lot of the increase came over the last few days, mostly as a result of Hurricane Harvey, which has shut down 25 percent of the United States' refining capacity.

"Last time I filled up it was $2.60. So it has gone up like 40 cents," said Sylvia Brooks-Clausell.

The timing couldn't be worse. With the Labor Day weekend fast approaching, it's one of the largest travel holidays of the year.

"It's the third largest in the summer. Historically we're going to see about 35 million people travel this holiday weekend," said Beth Mosher, of AAA.

But will the higher gas prices impact holiday travel? AAA said it won't, at least not for those of us in the Chicago area, most of whom will be traveling by car.

For those traveling by air, Houston's two largest airports are re-opening Wednesday on a limited basis, which is important since George Bush International is a big hub. But at this point the impact might be mostly to the airlines themselves. United is expected to take a $265 million hit, the result of thousands of cancelled flights over the last few days.

As for gas prices, how much they continue to rise is still uncertain.

"Expect to see gas prices rise now through Labor Day, even after Labor Day," said Patrick DeHaan, GasBuddy analyst. "And all of this is really contingent on how quickly those refineries can get back online."

Experts say they expect to see prices stabilize within the next week.
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