Thursday, December 14, 2017
Business

Gas, flights, Publix: All consumers need to know after Irma

Now that Hurricane Irma has barreled past Florida, many Tampa Bay area businesses are assessing damages and preparing to reopen.

Some companies are calling workers back in Tuesday, but check first before heading to a specific retailer or service. Several bank websites, for instance, said they remained closed but as of Monday afternoon had not cited a re-opening date.

LIVE BLOG: Latest updates on Hurricane Irma.

COMPLETE COVERAGE:Find all our coverage about Hurricane Irma here

Here's a list of what consumers can expect across the region.

When and where can I get gas?

As Tampa Bay and the rest of Florida try to get back to normal in the wake of Hurricane Irma, drivers are being warned to use gas sparingly.

The state and the region saw widespread gasoline outages during the week leading up to the storm. Gov. Rick Scott ordered Florida Highway Patrol escorts for fuel supplies to be shuttled to gas stations. Now in the wake of Irma, suppliers are trying to keep gas stations full of fuel, but motorists should be prepared for scarce supply as Florida evacuees return to their homes in large numbers. Gas stations not located along major highways should have an easier time keeping supplies, according to a press release from AAA, The Auto Group, which tracks gas prices and supplies.

"Florida evacuees should plan their return home very carefully," said Mark Jenkins. AAA spokesman said in a statement. " Expect congestion on the roadways, as the first few days after the storm will be the busiest. Pay close attention to traffic reports. Ensure you have a full tank of gas before you hit the road. Do not let your fuel gauge fall below a quarter tank before you start looking for a place to refuel."

Florida does not have crude oil refineries and relies on petroleum products delivered by tanker and barge to Florida ports, including Port Tampa Bay, which was closed during the storm.

The Tampa port is expected to reopen at 2 p.m. Tuesday. It reported only minor damage and flooding.

Three petroleum vessels are expected to bring fuel into Port Tampa Bay when it reopens to deliver to Tampa Bay area gas stations and across Central Florida.

Can I go shopping?

Odds are good. Many of the malls will be opening their doors in the morning. Tyrone Square, for instance, will re-open at 10 a.m. Tuesday; International Plaza at 10 a.m; and University Mall at 10:30 a.m.

When will flights resume?

The St. Pete-Clearwater Airport announced it will reopen on Tuesday and resume flights on Wednesday. The airport closed Friday after Hurricane Irma was forecast to pass over Tampa Bay. It said while the building will open on Tuesday flights will resume on Wednesday.

Tampa International Airport officials said they planned to resume limited operations Tuesday with a gradual build-up to a full schedule in following days.

When will grocery stores re-open?

Publix, Walmart, Winn-Dixie and most other grocery stores closed Saturday in advance of the storm.

Publix stores tentatively plan to re-open in Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough counties on Tuesday, weather permitting. Officials with Winn-Dixie and Walmart say stores will open immediately when the conditions are safe. Check retailers' websites and social media accounts for alerts about when specific stores will re-open.

What about cruise ships?

Travelers aboard the Carnival Paradise cruise ship that had departed from Tampa last week left Cozumel at 2 p.m. Monday to make their way back to Port Tampa Bay or Port Canaveral, depending on availability.

The Carnival ship will arrive in Florida on Wednesday. If docked in Port Canaveral, guests may choose to be transferred to Tampa, or the Orlando airport, by bus or remain at Port Canaveral until Carnival returns the ship to Port Tampa Bay next Saturday.

Times staff writer Sara DiNatale and Tierra Smith contributed to this report.

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