Gas prices surge higher as drivers rush to fill their tanks

ATLANTA (AP) — Gasoline prices rose several cents overnight amid continuing fears of shortages in Texas and other states in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey’s strike on the Gulf Coast.

The national average for a gallon of regular gas rose in one day from $2.45 Thursday to $2.52 Friday, the American Automobile Association reported.

At least two major pipelines — one that ships gasoline across the southern United States and to New York, and another that flows north to Chicago — have been slowed or stopped because of flooding and damage.

On Thursday, Gov. Roy Cooper said gas shortages and higher gas prices should be expected.

“This will impact us. We’ve seen it before,” Cooper said. “This is something that is critical. When you have a situation like this the problems go all up and down the pipeline. We’ve seen this happen before with problems with Katrina.”

His office announced he was declaring a state of emergency in order to temporarily waive restrictions on trucks hauling fuel to North Carolina.

“I’m taking action to make it easier to get gasoline into our state so North Carolinians who need gas can get it,” Cooper said.

Cooper also signed an executive order on Thursday declaring an “abnormal market disruption for gasoline,” putting the state’s anti-price-gouging law into effect for the next 45 days.

Gas prices rose at least 15 cents in 24 hours in several metropolitan areas including Dallas; El Paso, Texas; Athens, Georgia; and Dayton, Ohio, AAA reported Friday.

The average price of a gallon of gas had soared by at least .10 cents in eight states since Thursday: South Carolina, Ohio, Delaware, Maryland, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia and Texas.

Among those states, the highest 24-hour rise on average was in South Carolina, AAA reported. It’s among several southern states that are heavily reliant on the Colonial Pipeline for deliveries of gasoline.

Part of the pipeline that runs through Texas is shut down and inspections must be done before the entire system can be fully operational again, Colonial Pipeline spokesman Steve Baker said Thursday. The Georgia-based company remains able to operate its pipeline from Louisiana to states east and northeast of there, though deliveries will be “intermittent,” the company said. It hopes to return more sections of the pipeline to service by Sunday.

In Dallas, drivers lined up at gas pumps Thursday as some stations ran out of fuel.

One Chevron station in downtown Dallas that sold regular gas for $2.29 a gallon just before the storm was charging $2.99 Thursday. Others charged well over $3, and one downtown Shell station charged $3.97 for a regular gallon of gas.

The crunch prompted QuikTrip, one of the nation’s largest convenience store chains, to temporarily halt gasoline sales at about half its 135 stores in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Instead, gasoline deliveries are going to designated stores across all parts of the metro area, QuikTrip spokesman Mike Thornbrugh said.

Analysts are cautioning drivers not to panic as some gas stations run low on gasoline.

If people start hoarding gas, as some have in Texas, “that’s going to make the problem worse, and prices shoot higher and the event will last longer, with more disruption and shortages,” said Patrick DeHaan, an analyst with GasBuddy.com.

His advice: “Try to have a sense of calm.”

___

Lauer reported from Dallas.

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