Pain at the gas pumps

Warnings of increased gas prices as a result of Hurricane Harvey hitting the Gulf Coast came true Thursday.

Gas prices jumped dramatically on Thursday, leaving consumers who did not heed the warnings to fill up earlier a little lighter than expected in the wallet.

Bill Holtzman, president of Holtzman Oil, said there is product on the Gulf Coast but the refineries cannot operate their pumps, which are underwater, or use ships to move the gas out into the pipelines and ultimately to local gas stations.

Holtzman said that his cost went up eight cents Wednesday night and had gone up 27 cents in the previous five days as news of the hurricane developed.

That transferred to increased gas prices at the pumps.

A snapshot of area gas station prices as of 2 p.m. Thursday found the Wilco Travel Plaza in Tom’s Brook has just increased to $2.29. A clerk at the Exxon station in Strasburg said its gas prices went up Thursday morning to $2.35 and the Wilco Hess gas station in Front Royal was charging $2.25 per gallon. That price went into effect Thursday morning, the clerk there said.

Holtzman anticipates increased gas prices for the next couple of weeks.

“Then the prices will probably go down as fast as they went up,” Holtzman said.

Bob Claytor, CEO of H.N. Funkhauser, said prices could go up another 20 cents before they start to fall.

There are about 20 refineries closed along the Gulf Coast. The Motiva , one of the nations largest, produces about 600,000 barrels of gasoline a day. It was forced to close Wednesday and is currently not producing anything, he said.

If refinery pumps and motors were damaged by the water it could take longer to get gasoline into the pipelines. Even in the best scenario it is going to take a while for roads to become passable and workers to get back into the refineries, Claytor said.

He agrees prices are going to take a couple weeks to come down.