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Worries about gas continue

Worries of price-gouging continued today as supplies diminished and gas prices climbed higher in the Charlotte region in the wake of Hurricane Ike.

Ike, a category 2 storm, made landfall south of Houston in the early morning hours, flooding streets and knocking out power to millions of people in Texas and Louisiana.

The storm, and the anticipated fuel shortage it will create, has caused price spikes, and in some cases, near panic-like runs on available gasoline.

According to AAA, gas prices in the Charlotte region ran about $3.70 on Thursday. Those prices started climbing fast on Friday and by midday today, the average was nearly $4 a gallon with many stations selling fuel for upwards of $4.50 a gallon.

It is still unclear how many stations have run out of gas, but officials said that as of 11 a.m. Saturday 56 of the 159 stations used by city and county officials were closed.

The situation forced N.C. Gov. Mike Easley and S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster this week to enact their state's anti-gouging provisions. The laws prohibit companies from charging unreasonably high prices.

Still, several people contacted the Observer today complained of what they felt were excessively high gas prices.

Anthony Arellano watched Friday as one gas station in Harrisburg jumped from $3.68 to $4.19 to $4.39.

“These people are crooks,” he wrote in an e-mail.

Jonathan Barth grew so angry with the price increases, and the public's rush on gas stations, that he actually stood outside one gas station on Johnston Road holding a sign that read “Stop Driving Up Prices.”

Barth said he was convinced the station was involved in illegal price-gouging. He contacted the state's attorney general and reported the station.

“These people capitalized on the panic and it was wrong,” he said.

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