Hurricane Ike is hovering on the high side of a category 2 storm, and may reach Cat 3 as it slams Texas in the next few hours, with current winds pushing a storm surge deep into the shoreline of Galveston and other Texas communities. The storm reportedly has winds up to a Cat 4 level several hundred feet above the surface and a storm surge of 20+ feet, enough to inundate 100 miles pf the Texas Coastline.
Ike is also blowing gas prices through the roof as Texas refineries shut down operations for the duration of the storm, and possibly through the clean-up period that follows. Meanwhile, gas stations are cleaning out the wallets of drivers who will find a minute-by-minute escalation of gas prices that seem more like price gouging.
On Friday morning at 9 a.m., Clarksville Online Publisher Bill Larson paid $3.61 a gallon for gas just prior to a trip to Nashville. At the time, his gas station of choice was also limiting customer purchases to 10 gallons per visit, which felt a bit like wartime rationing. Larson and this author, all too familiar with storms, tried valiantly not to think what the day and “Ike” would bring; the reality was culture shock.Twelve hours later, back from Nashville, back in Clarksville, Larson and this author spotted a $4.09 gas sign at Kroger’s on Dover Road in Clarksville. That sign prompted us to search the city for escalating prices. What we found was that by 10 p.m., many stations had settled in at the $3.99 rate for regular unleaded, a few topped the psychological barrier of $4 by a penny or two. Then came the gas station at the Madison Street K-Mart, with a hefty $4.17 a gallon lit up in bright neon lights. We circled the K-Mart pumps, and settled on a photo of one pump that showed just over 25 gallons of gas purchased for the staggering sum $102 and change. A second pump on the site showed a $100 tab for gas. That’s a 56 cent, yes, 56 cent increase in 13 hours. It reads a bit like price gouging to us. What’s wrong with this picture?
I had no sooner limped into my home at 11 p.m. last night when the phone rang; my daughter in Paragould, Arkansas, called and in the course of our conversation reported a price of $4.29 per gallon in her small heartland community. Gas sticker shock outweighed and overcame our planned discussion of why Sarah Palin is the scariest VP choice ever.
This story is a “to be continued” piece, since we will be monitoring the price of gas at area stations through the coming week. We have already heard chatter about the next psychological barrier: $5.00 a gallon gas. Will it happen? Maybe. If it does, you’ll be reading about it here.