KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Gas prices continued to climb -- particularly along the Gulf Coast -- as the approach of Tropical Storm Isaac forced the closure of many oil and refining facilities.
Many economists predict local gas prices will keep surging as Tropical Storm Isaac hits the coast this week.
Prices at the pump have already increased as Isaac forced several major refineries along the Gulf Coast to halt production in preparation for high winds and heavy rains.
A survey for the motorist group AAA showed that the national price for a gallon of regular gas crept up 0.6 cent to $3.756 in Tuesday's reading.
In Missouri, Tuesday’s jump was .004 cent. The average price in Kansas City jumped .005 cent, from $3.606 on Monday to $3.611 on Tuesday.
But sharper rises were recorded in the Gulf states preparing for the storm, with gas jumping 2.5 cents to $3.642 a gallon in Louisiana, a little more than 2 cents to $3.563 in Mississippi, and 1.3 cents to $3.581 in Alabama.
Even before the storm, prices had risen about 7% this month, to the highest levels since early May. But the storm has added to the climb, taking the national average up 2.6 cents since Friday, when Isaac's path first appeared to veer away from Florida toward the oil and gas facilities in the Gulf of Mexico.
Seven years ago this week, gas prices spiked after Hurricane Katrina. Experts warn Isaac could make the rise in prices even more dramatic.
Economists predicted residents in the Kansas City area and across the nation could see a 20 cent increase within the next two weeks. Economist Chris Kuehl of Armada Intelligence Corp. predicts the coastal problems in Florida and Louisiana will most definitely affect Kansas City drivers.
"We will definitely see a spike. It'll be anywhere from 10 to 20 cents a gallon and we're seeing refineries responding already," explained Kuehl.
Oil companies' new procedures and safety standards, imposed after the devastating Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill, have already led to the evacuation of more than 50 percent of platforms in the Gulf.
Isaac is expected to reach the Gulf Coast sometime late Tuesday or early Wednesday, according to the National Hurricane Center. A hurricane warning was in effect for an areas east of Morgan City, La., to the Alabama-Florida border. The area includes metropolitan New Orleans and much of the nation's refining capacity.
Kuehl said that lack of production could also contribute to the rise in prices.
"They respond pretty dramatically in that region, so now more than ever, because after the BPU disaster, more platforms will be shut down earlier and stay shut down longer," said Kuehl.
Pump prices could surge even more sharply if the storm triggers flooding or power outages after it makes landfall.
All of this frustrates local drivers.
Grace Strachan, a traveling saleswoman, pumped nearly $65 into her tank on Monday. Standing at the pump, she said the higher prices now and during the last few years have put intense pressure on her to make bigger sales just to cover her traveling expenses.
"It's not fun anymore. There's more pressure on selling," lamented Strachan.
While the price fluctuations may not always make a lot of sense, Strachan still said she knows everyone, just like her, is trying to make a profit.
"We're in a society that if (a company) makes a profit, they're the bad guy. I'm sorry. It's not a charity," said Strachan.
Others, like QuikTrip customer Charlie Brown, seem more cynical toward the price surge.
"The hurricane is one reason, and trust me there'll be another reason down the road," noted Brown.
Gas stations make just a few cents per gallon of gas, unless they try to price gouge.
After Hurricane Katrina, however, many states adopted laws that make price gouging very easy to report and prosecute.
CNN Contributed to this report
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