Fayette County

Ike's sting reaches Kentucky gas pumps

When Hurricane Ike lashed Texas on Saturday, Central Kentuckians felt some of the sting.

The cash registers and gas pumps at some Shell stations in Lexington failed for several hours when Hurricane Ike shut down their home office in Houston. Other fuel stations in the area temporarily ran dry as prices hovered at about $4 a gallon.

Meanwhile, the Rev. Jim Sichko of Richmond prepared for his mother and sister to seek refuge with him in Madison County for the next several weeks because there is 8 feet of standing water in much of their hometown of Orange, Texas.

"They got the brunt of the storm surge," said Sichko, pastor of St. Mark Catholic Church. "They are without power, and there's no cell phone service. The damage is worse than three years ago with Hurricane Rita."

Still, Sichko said, the storm left his boyhood home intact.

"We are just grateful that our home has been spared," he said.

At the Shell at Lexington Green on Nicholasville Road, manager David Bryan was trying to figure out how to fix what Ike had done to his cash registers and gas pumps.

"We're working to get our systems back up," he said Saturday afternoon.

At the Eastland Shell on New Circle Road, manager Roger Patel said he had the same problem for at least an hour; on Richmond Road, employees at Mist Lake Shell worked all afternoon to fix the problem so they could sell gas.

Other gas stations in town had a different problem.

They are dealing with shortages caused by customers who made a run on stations Friday in anticipation that Ike would raise prices.

The storm shut down the refinery in Texas City, Texas, that serves many Speedway stations in Kentucky, so some stations are seeing temporary shortages, said Angela Graves, a spokeswoman at Speedway SuperAmerica.

Jackie Wilkinson, an employee at Thornton's on Elkhorn Road, said the station ran out of gas for about an hour Friday during the rush.

But Jason Lewis, assistant manager of a Winchester Road Shell Station near Interstates 64 and 75, said the Friday rush continued to create problems for him on Saturday.

"I have no premium gas," Lewis said. "Seven-hundred thirteen people came through this store Friday in nine hours."

Lewis said he had regular gas. When would he get more premium?

"We don't know," Lewis said, "Nobody knows.

Compounding the jitters and higher costs for gasoline retailers was the fact that some big refineries along the Gulf Coast had been shut for nearly two weeks after Hurricane Gustav hit earlier this month. Power outages caused by Ike threatened to keep millions of gallons of gasoline output idled for at least several days.

Fears of supply shortages, and actual fuel-production disruptions, resulting from Ike lashing at the vital energy infrastructure led to pump price disparities of as much as $1 a gallon in some states, and even on some blocks.

The price of regular gasoline soared as high as $4.99 a gallon in Knoxville on Saturday, up from $3.66 a day earlier.

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear said Saturday that the supply of reformulated gasoline required in Louisville and Northern Kentucky because of pollution concerns "will be severely limited for several days, which could escalate the price at the pump even further for consumers."

Beshear said that on Monday he will formally request a waiver from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to sell regular gasoline in Louisville and Northern Kentucky.

Beshear said Attorney General Jack Conway is continuing efforts to make sure "predatory price gouging is not being inflicted upon Kentucky consumers during this crisis."