Hurricane Ike unleashed its fury at gas pumps Sunday, with prices surging even as crude oil dropped to a new five-month low of less than $100 a barrel.
The hurricane shuttered refineries located around the Gulf of Mexico, limiting the availability of gasoline. That drove prices for gasoline upward. But without refineries to process crude oil into gasoline, demand for oil fell.
The falling demand, coupled with relief from initial reports that drilling in the Gulf appeared to survive Ike relatively unscathed, helped bring crude oil prices to their lows during a special trading session on Sunday. Oil topped out at nearly $150 a barrel this summer.
But drivers pulling into filling stations across the country were faced with much higher prices. Some areas reported gas above $5 a gallon, prompting local politicians to issue warnings against price gouging.