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Prices climb as hurricane bears down on Texas

The threat of Hurricane Ike to one-fifth of the nation’s gasoline refining capacity sent drivers scrambling to the pumps on Friday in Greenville.

Ike is expected to hammer the southwest Texas coast as a possible Category 3 storm when it comes ashore Saturday morning.

Even as gas prices jumped to as much as $3.99 per gallon on Friday afternoon, drivers crowded local convenience stores to top off tanks.

Drivers will probably have to face the reality of higher prices in the next coming days. Ike could significantly hamper gasoline deliveries in the next few days depending on how much damage it induces in Texas.

On Thursday, gas prices rose from $3.69 to $3.89 per gallon within the span of a few hours.

But Hilltop Chevron owner Buddy McBride said he wasn’t in any danger of running low on gas Friday.

“I’m pretty sure it’s (gas prices) going to go up again,” McBride said.

While McBride still had fuel available, another store couldn’t say the same.

Drivers raced to the QVC on I-65 – a station historically selling gas for lower prices in Greenville – and had drained the tanks by 2 p.m. on Friday.

Plastic bags covered the pump handles and the digital sign advertising a city low $3.55 per gallon had been turned off.

Store employees said they weren’t sure when tanks would be filled again.

Late Friday, Gov. Bob Riley declared a State of Emergency after he received new information from the U.S. Department of Energy that energy shortages will likely occur in the state due to Hurricane Ike.

“I believe this new information means a threat to public health is a strong possibility due to the shortage of fuels,” said Riley. “I deem it an emergency.”