SIOUX CITY | Gas prices in Siouxland are continuing to surge heading into Labor Day weekend, falling in line with a nationwide spike that's partially attributed to refinery and pipeline shutdowns caused by Hurricane Harvey.
Survey information from the American Automobile Association showed regular self-serve gasoline in Sioux City averaged $2.48 per gallon Friday, an increase of 8 cents from the day before and 28 cents from a week ago.
By comparison, fuel prices had averaged $2.19 per gallon in 2016 on the same date.
For drivers like Bob Christensen, who was refueling his Chevy Silverado pickup Friday morning at the Casey's on Floyd Boulevard, the higher prices are manageable. But, he said, with no weekend travel plans, he was only partially filling up and hoping to wait out the high prices.
"I was getting low, and I saw the $2.48, and I said, 'I’m not leaving town so why fill it up.' I can save 10 bucks or something," he said. "I'm just putting enough gas in here."
A few pumps away, rural Sioux City resident Keith Zevenbergen said the prices weren't putting a damper on a planned trip to the Omaha area this weekend, although he wished he would have fueled up his GMC Canyon earlier in the week.
"I should have filled up two or three days ago," he chuckled.
AAA on Friday morning reported the national gas price average had hit $2.52, the highest recorded price for unleaded gasoline so far in 2017. The rise is attributed to refinery and pipeline shutdowns, tightened access to supplies in the Gulf of Mexico and high gasoline demand ahead of the weekend, according to a Thursday news release.
Hurricane Harvey made landfall Aug. 25 along Texas' Gulf Coast as a Category 4 hurricane. Flooding has left thousands of Houston-area families homeless.
At least two major pipelines -- one that ships gasoline across the southern United States and to New York, and another that flows north to Chicago -- have been slowed or stopped because of flooding and damage.
AAA spokeswoman Jeanette Casselano in a news release said consumers should see a "short-term spike" in the coming weeks, with gas prices likely exceeding $2.50 per gallon, but quickly dropping by the middle or end of the month.
With more than 20 percent of the U.S. oil refining capacity offline due to the damage on Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a waiver allowing E15 fuel -- which contains 15 percent ethanol instead of the 10 percent found in the most commonly used fuel -- to be sold to motorists with 2001 or newer vehicles two weeks earlier than normal in 38 states including Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota.
Under normal circumstances, E15 fuel can only be sold to such vehicles from Sept. 15 to June 1. Flex-fuel vehicles can use the fuel year-round.
A news release from the Nebraska Corn, Ethanol and Renewable Fuels boards issued Friday encouraged motorists to use higher-blend ethanol fuels.
"One of the easiest things we can do to help with Hurricane Harvey recovery is use more ethanol," Jan tenBensel, vice chairman of the Nebraska Ethanol Board, said in the release. "By using our homegrown, renewable fuel, we can allow petroleum to be diverted to areas that are in greater need, which also helps mitigate price hikes."
The three-day weekend that signals the unofficial end of summer is a high time for motorists to hit the roads. But while gas prices could be unpleasant for travelers this weekend, the weather shouldn't be. The National Weather Service in Sioux Falls predicts the entire three-day weekend will be sunny with highs in the 80s, peaking at 89 degrees Sunday.