Gas stations were like madhouses Friday as area drivers rushed to the pumps in fear of being left without gas or just trying to fill up before the prices skyrocket further.
Thursday, gasoline was as low as $3.58 a gallon for regular unleaded at some Bulloch County stations, but by Friday afternoon, the prices soared by about a dollar a gallon in some places, with gasoline being pumped at as much as $4.59 a gallon.
Anticipation of the impact of Hurricane Ike in Texas, where "they process about 40 percent of petroleum shipped into the area" caused gas prices to explode Friday, said Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin.
The refineries will likely be shut down for "about five or six days," he said.
That clamps down on the gasoline supply and sends the price of fuel flying upward, he said.
Some stations in the county were expecting to run out of gas and were unsure when they would see another delivery. At some stations, gas tankers blocked angry drivers to fill the underground supply tanks while people maneuvered for a spot at the pumps, worried they would have to pay more if they waited, or worse - not be able to get any gas.
"There is only a certain amount of gas in the pipeline," Irvin said.
Some major gasoline companies were able to keep gas inflation at a minimum because they were able to get gasoline at fixed prices due to previous contracts, he said.
But independent gas station owners were forced to pay the "spot market" price, which was significantly higher, he said. It's a mixed bag."
Which explained Ambi Food Mart and Murphy's USA selling gasoline at $4/09 a gallon mid afternoon Friday, while GATE and other stations were pumping regular unleaded at $4.19.
Enmark had gasoline at $4.29 during the same time; stations outside the city were higher - $4.49 a gallon at The Store in Register, and $4.43 at a station near Interstate 16 in the Brooklet area.
Clyde's Market in Brooklet and Portal were selling gasoline at $3.99 a gallon, and the lines were long.
Murphy's USA was swamped, said Nancy Ann Dipolito. Cars were backed up into the nearby parking lot and people were not relinquishing spots in line to allow others to drive through, she said.
And at the same time on South Main Street's GATE Petroleum, the parking lot was filled with vehicles edging their way to the pumps. Tempers flared and some yelled at others when they found themselves blocked from leaving by those waiting to get in.
It wasn't just Statesboro and Bulloch County - it was that way all over the South.
Some places limited gasoline sales per customer. Parkers on U.S. 80 West would only allow customers to buy $45 worth of gas at a time.
Across the south, one regional chain urged patrons to limit themselves to 10 gallons, according to Associated Press reports.
Officials in some states tried to head off a run on gas by threatening to prosecute stations that gouge consumers. However, Arty Schronce, spokesman for Irvin's office, said Georgia law only provided penalties for gouging if the governor declared a state of emergency.
But in neighboring state South Carolina, Attorney General Henry McMaster warned gas stations that price gouge would face criminal prosecution. Georgia may not be in Ike's path, but she's suffering his wrath. Drivers across the state are succumbing to panic and rushing to fill their tanks.
‘‘We are encouraging motorists to exercise some restraint this weekend,’’ said AAA Carolinas spokeswoman Carol Gifford. ‘‘The run on gas is creating a crisis before there is a crisis.’’
Irvin said he hopes Ike doesn't wreak havoc on Texas and cause damage to the refineries, which could mean extended closures and consistently high prices. "We don't know what the final result will be."
According to Gas Buddy on www.statesboroherald.com, gasoline prices in Bulloch County ranged from $3.58 to $3.79 Thursday.
While prices are often lower at The Store in Register, Friday they were much higher than elsewhere in the county and manager Kenny Patel said he did not expect to get any more gas deliveries this week.
Kelly Thompson, employee of Clyde's Market #37 on Fair Road, said she didn't think they would run out of gasoline, but the cars had been lined up earlier Friday and gas jumped from $3.99 to $4.19 within a short time.