The hurricane flooded New Orleans and wreaked havoc along the Gulf Coast. It caused the closure of hundreds of oil platforms and pipelines and forced eight refineries that produce much of the unleaded regular and premium-grade gas used in the United States to stop operation.
Closer to home, the Marathon Ashland Petroleum refinery in Catlettsburg, Ky., scaled back operations until the pipeline from the Louisiana coast was back in operation.
Ann Belcher, a spokeswoman for AAA Blue Grass/Kentucky in Lexington, told the Associated Press that Hurricane Katrina created needless nervousness among Kentucky consumers about fuel shortages.
“We may see spot shortages here and there, but we're not going to be seeing any widespread shortages,” she said. “There is going to be fuel available. That's the reality of it.”
However, the price of fuel outraged many customers, including those in Scioto County.
John Scherer of Portsmouth was putting gas in his minivan and found out that 16 gallons, which didn't even fill the tank, was about $50.
“I think this is totally ridiculous. I don't even know how I'm going to get back and forth to work unless I walk or ride a bike to justify what I make,” he said. “It's absolutely sad and we're in trouble.”
Carolyn Wicker of Wheelersburg said she was very surprised by the price jump of 50 cents in two days for regular unleaded gas.
“I didn't expect it to go up that much,” she said. “I paid $2.57 a couple of days ago and then after work today, it was $3.09.”
According to figures around the state, gas prices in the Ohio Valley are higher than many other areas.
Some say it's a lack of competition. Some say it's a lack of quantity. Distributors say it costs more to deliver here.
There are several distributors in the tri-state area, but two of the largest distributors are Delmer Hicks with Hicks Wholesale of Portsmouth, and John Clark with Clark's Pump & Shop Inc. of Ashland, Ky.
Addressing the lower prices in Columbus, Hicks said that usually they have gasoline bulk plants close by and they don't have to truck it as far.
“Sometimes we have to go to Columbus and get it,” he said, “and we have a pretty good freight bill to get it in here.”
In August in the tri-state area, gas prices remained higher than in most areas, about $2.60 a gallon before the hurricane.
Hicks said that there is a slight drop in sales since the prices began to soar.
He said that the United States depends too much on foreign countries for oil and they can set the prices however they choose.
Hicks has a large number of stations in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia.
Taxes in the tri-state area also vary. In Ohio, gas tax is 24 cents a gallon for both gasoline and diesel fuel. In Kentucky, the gas tax is 16.4 cents a gallon for gas and 13.4 cents a gallon for diesel. In West Virginia, the gas tax is 20.5 cents for both gas and diesel.
“I think the gas prices are just too high, the main reason is that we're in Appalachia - we always get the high end of everything, even groceries,” said Ron Feagans of Rubyville, former owner of Eden Park Self Serve. “In Chillicothe and Columbus, it's a lot cheaper. Kroger in Russell (Ky.) was at least 22 cents a gallon cheaper. The main reason is that we don't have enough competition - there are only two main distributors. Our prices were 7 cents higher than the national average.”
PHYLLIS NOAH can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 234, or at email@example.com. The Associated Press and MARK SHAFFER contributed to this story.