With news reports that the threat of Hurricane Ike hitting the Gulf coast could push gasoline prices to record levels in the coming days, local residents began lining up at local convenience markets Thursday to fill their tanks.
In Smithville, Mapco Express, Kwik-N-Ezy, and DeKalb Market kept busy late into the night with lines of gas customers.
According to news reports, Exxon Mobil Corp., Valero Energy Corp., ConocoPhillips and Marathon Oil Co. were among the companies halting operations at refineries on the Texas coast, primarily in the Houston area, because of the approaching Hurricane.
Refineries along the upper Texas Gulf Coast account for about one-fifth of the nation's refining capacity. Exxon Mobil's refinery in Baytown, outside Houston, is the nation's largest.
The wholesale price for gasoline produced on the Gulf Coast jumped to record levels between $4 and $5 a gallon Thursday, a spike some analysts attributed to "panic buying" over Ike's potential to disrupt fuel supplies.
The Gulf accounts for about 25 percent of domestic oil production and 15 percent of natural gas output.