Rita Likely To Send Local Gas Prices Soaring

By Justin Wilfon

(LOUISVILLE) -- With a monstrous storm approaching the U.S. and shutting down Gulf oil refineries for the second time in less than a month, gas prices across the country could skyrocket yet again. Hurricane Rita has local drivers worried, but as WAVE 3's Justin Wilfon investigates, experts say it's best not to panic.

On a sunny Thursday morning on Baxter Avenue, the gas pumps were still pumping and the prices were still low -- relatively speaking. But it could be the calm before the storm.

"The radio just told me that prices are going to go up," said driver David Hawpe.

As Hurricane Rita bears down on the Gulf coast, and takes out oil refineries along the way, some are predicting record prices at the pump, delivering a major blow to just about everyone's wallet.

Some experts say $4 a gallon is not out of the question, but Roger Boyd, a spokesperson for AAA of Louisville says when -- or even if -- gas prices will go up is still unclear.

"That's all speculation at this point," Boyd said, "and it's all based on the potential damage that this storm could do," Boyd said.

Several weeks ago, when gas prices were about to go up, there was such a rush to the pump that many stations ran out of gas. Now some station owners are worried that may happen again.

"I almost didn't fill up today," Hawpe said, "because I didn't want to be part of the rush to gorge on gasoline and drive prices up even further.

Boyd told us "we're actually urging motorists to exhibit restraint and get the gas they need and use the gas they're going to get, but also to conserve."

While some experts are predicting record high prices, Boyd is a little more optimistic. He says the summer driving season is now over, so the demand for gas has diminished.

Boyd also says the stockpile of gas in the U.S. has actually increased over the past couple of weeks.

Online Reporter: Justin Wilfon

Online Producer: Michael Dever