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Fay expected to bring rain, not much else

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

Weather forecasters are expecting Tropical Storm Fay to bring an increased possibility of rain to metro Atlanta this week, but not much else.

"It is scheduled to go about 200 miles east of Atlanta, and by early Friday morning, into South Carolina," said Mike Leary, National Weather Service forecaster.

The storm is expected to make landfall near Tampa this afternoon, which is good news, according Greg Laskoski of AAA Auto Club South.

The storm - had it taken a turn into the Gulf of Mexico - could have impacted the U.S. oil supply and gasoline production, which could have, in turn, impacted retail gas prices.

"If Fay does not impact our refineries and oil infrastructure in the Gulf, then we should see continued retail price reduction," Laskoski said.

Over the past several weeks, retail and crude oil prices have fallen drastically alongside demand and oil consumption. With a few exceptions, Laskoski said this week should be no different. "Bad weather typically means that fewer people want to drive anywhere." But in certain cases, consumers have been known to hoard gas unnecessarily.

"In some instances, we've already seen this," Laskoski said. "Some people in Florida have been filling up their tanks. In this instance, you might see a few places that might run out of gas. But there's certainly no shortage of gasoline."

OPEC, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, recently predicted that worldwide oil consumption would fall for the remainder of the year by 30,000 barrels per day. Crude oil is currently about $110 per barrel.

"However, some analysts predict crude oil prices may rise next week as U.S. gasoline inventories fall, because refineries are cutting output in response to low-profit margins," Laskoski continued. "Output may also be cut if refineries need to evacuate some areas, even if only as a safety and precautionary measure."

For now, though Tropical Storm Fay - on its current path - is not expected to make any direct impact on retail gas prices.

"The storm will give the metro area an opportunity for rain," said weather forecaster Leary. .

No wind- or severe-weather advisories are expected for the week, when temperatures should hold steady in the mid-80s for highs, and in the upper 60s for lows.

But chances of rain in the Southern Crescent will be slight today at 20 percent, and increasing to 50 percent on Wednesday. Leary said there will be a slight chance of rain (30-40 percent) throughout the remainder of the week and weekend, which others said could help improve the region's drought conditions.

AAA advises that motorist be extra cautious this week and offers these tips on driving in wet weather:

· Hard rain can limit visibility. When visibility is poor, the odds of having a collision in wet weather significantly increase. AAA advises that motorists keep windshields (wipers) and windows clean; use the car's defroster fan; use low-beam headlights or daytime running lights, or if visibility is impossible,pull off safely to the side of the road and wait. Turn your headlights off and your emergency flashers on.

· Poor traction is more dangerous during the first 10 minutes of a heavy downpour, when oil and debris from roads will rise up and later wash away.

· To reduce the chance of hydroplaning, slow down and avoid braking hard or making sharp turns. To reduce skidding, ease foot off the brake (for back wheel skid) or ease off the gas (for front wheel skid). To get out of the mud, apply power or accelerate slowly.

Motorists should always drive defensively to avoid a collision. If an obstacle is encountered, it is better to steer around it, than to brake at speeds above 25 mph. Also, avoid using cruise control in wet weather.