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story.lead_photo.caption Average unleaded regular gasoline prices in Columbia County Monday averaged $2.72 per gallon – the highest for the area and tied for highest in the state, according the nationwide survey firm GasBuddy. For southwest Arkansas, only Union and Nevada Counties, both at $2.69 per gallon, came close to the prices seen locally. - Photo by J.D. Bailey / J.D. Bailey

In its unofficial daily survey of more than 1,800 gasoline pumps across Arkansas, data firm GasBuddy on Monday showed Columbia County with the highest average unleaded regular gasoline price per gallon in southwest Arkansas. At a $2.72 average for one gallon of 87 octane, the county was also tied with Stone County of north-central Arkansas having the the highest average figures in the state.

This is not a new trend. In June, the county was also the costliest in the region at $2.58 per gallon. In July, the rates climbed slightly to $2.60 per gallon. But the fact remained that Columbia County was the most expensive place to purchase regular gasoline for miles.

As for surrounding counties, Union and Nevada saw similar average regular gasoline prices at only 4 cents under those seen in Columbia. The neighbors to the north and to the east both came in at $2.69 per gallon.

The tri-county area seems to be an anomaly for the much of the region and the state as a whole. The GasBuddy survey found that Arkansas, with its $2.56 per gallon average, sits only behind Mississippi and Alabama, at $2.53 and $2.52, respectively, as the three least expensive states in the Union to purchase regular octane gas.

Lafayette and Hempstead Counties both registered this week at $2.55 per gallon. The same per gallon cost for regular gas was also seen in all other surrounding counties. No matter where, from Chicot County along the Mississippi River, and spanning across Ashley, Drew, Bradley, Cleveland, Calhoun, Dallas, Ouachita, Clark, and Pike Counties, the price per gallon was steady at $2.55.

The lowest average regular gas prices in the state, though, were seen Monday by two counties: Miller, home of Texarkana, and Poinsett, a small county in northeastern Arkansas near Jonesboro. Both averaged $2.47 per gallon, according to the survey.

The highest price per gallon for regular gasoline in Magnolia Monday came at the N. Vine Street Exxon station at $2.87 per gallon (price was for non-ethanol gasoline), while the lowest retailer was the ethanol-containing Mulerider Express at $2.66 per gallon.

Nationally, for the 48 continental states, California, as of Monday, was the most expensive state to purchase regular gasoline, with its $3.67 per gallon charge. Most other west coast states also saw prices above $3 per gallon, but Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada and Utah all ranged between 30 and 47 cents cheaper than the Golden State.

Along the east coast, Pennsylvania and Connecticut saw the highest priced regular gasoline at $3.07 and $3.03, respectively. New Hampshire, at $2.77 per gallon, was the cheapest state to buy gasoline in the northeast.

Gas prices as a whole yesterday were up 15.7 cents per gallon over the same day a year ago and are 2.1 cents per gallon lower than a month ago. The national average has dropped 2.4 cents per gallon during the last month and stands 18.1 cents per gallon higher than a year ago, the survey said.

“Last week saw a brief and fairly tame rise in the national average, brought on mainly by a select few states where gas prices tend to be volatile,” said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy. “Overall, it was a mostly stable week with some up and down movement state-by-state, but now we await the changeover to winter gasoline that happens this Saturday for some relief at the pump.”

The analyst also added that Hurricane Florence, the massive storm predicted to hit the eastern seaboard this week, shouldn’t have any negative effects locally on fuel prices.

“While Hurricane Florence may pose fuel-related challenges for areas of the East Coast, there is little to no threat to refineries at this time and is thus unlikely to bring measurable impact to the national average price of gasoline,” DeHaan said, “but could bring supply challenges to several states, depending on levels of evacuations and timing of them. Hurricane season aside, gasoline demand will likely drift lower nearly countrywide, putting some additional downward impact on prices in most communities over the next few weeks.”

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