Sacramento-area gasoline prices have slipped back to their lowest level since early August, a welcome development after a wild three-month ride.
Local motorists have benefited from a combination of rising gas supplies, production of cheaper winter-grade gas and crude oil trading at a relatively affordable $85 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
One other benefit: California was nowhere near Hurricane Sandy.
The impact of the superstorm has been limited to the most flood-ravaged areas of coastal New York and New Jersey, where long lines of customers still waited at service stations Monday.
The Energy Department estimated that 27 percent of all gas stations across New York City, Long Island and New Jersey did not have gas to sell.
National gas price tracker GasBuddy.com said Monday's average price of gas in New York City was $4.03 a gallon, up 12 cents from a week ago.
Yet GasBuddy said the national average price of gas fell 5.6 cents over the past week to $3.51 a gallon 28.4 cents lower than last month.
Analysts said a steady flow of fuel from the Gulf of Mexico region and a widespread reduction in vehicle use up and down the Eastern Seaboard in the aftermath of Sandy have helped push gas prices lower.
"Even with Hurricane Sandy causing havoc on refineries and infrastructure in the Northeast, gasoline prices nationally have continued to trend lower," said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy. "It goes to show how much more significant the Gulf Coast is to this nation's energy backbone when such a massive storm causes no major rise in the national average.
"The good news is that average prices will likely continue to decline, perhaps to $3.35 a gallon nationally by Thanksgiving."
In the Sacramento area, GasBuddy said the average price of gas fell an additional 17.9 cents to $3.82 a gallon over the past week.
That's down 55 cents from last month and only 7.3 cents higher than last year. And it's the lowest price since area consumers were paying an average of about $3.75 a gallon on Aug. 6 just before a fire at the Chevron refinery in Richmond sent pump costs soaring statewide.
DeHaan speculated on Monday that the rate of price declines will slow in Sacramento and statewide over the next week.
"I don't think you're going to see the declines you've been seeing in weeks past," he said. "Things are cooled off a bit, and things are progressing nicely at this point."
DeHaan said Chevron's weekend announcement that its hobbled Richmond refinery is expected to resume full production early next year also was a positive development.
The fire damaged a crude unit of the 110-year-old refinery with a production capacity of about 245,000 barrels a day. Within a week, Sacramento-area gas prices spiked 25.8 cents, passing $4 a gallon.
Then on Oct. 1, California motorists absorbed a second hit when a series of production disruptions at in-state refineries sent prices above $4.50. In California, AAA said unleaded regular hit an all-time high average of $4.67 a gallon on Oct. 9.
Soaring prices prompted Gov. Jerry Brown to call on the California Air Resources Board to issue an order allowing in-state refiners to begin blending cheaper, winter-grade fuel earlier than Oct. 31 .
That helped prompt a steep drop in wholesale gas prices, but the effects of that did not start showing up at gas pumps for about a week. Over the past several weeks, however, gas prices have tumbled significantly.