Prices continue to rise at the pump in Humboldt County; officials say it is unclear where spike will end

With summer months fast approaching, gas prices are continuing to inch -- and now practically leap -- toward the $4.50 a gallon mark.

AAA spokeswoman Cynthia Harris said it's hard to predict how high the prices will eventually go during this time of year, when pain at the pump traditionally increases.

"Gas in Eureka on March 11 was $3.98 and jumped to $4.14 on April 8," Harris said. "To say what prices would go up to would be speculation at this point."

Current gas prices in Eureka are between $4.37 and $4.39 -- with Costco offering the cheapest gas at $4.11 -- and prices in Arcata, McKinleyville and Fortuna are around $4.39, according to

Greater Eureka Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Don Smullin said everyone complains about the prices going up, but he doesn't know why they keep increasing.

"Eureka has always been the highest," Smullin said. "Prices are always going up and then down, and it would be hard to say what the highest is that I've seen. All I can say is that it's depressing."

The largest non-seasonal spike was in October 2012, when Humboldt County saw nearly $5 a gallon for regular gas. The perfect storm of a fire at the Chevron Corp. 240,000 barrel-a-day Richmond refinery -- which ran at reduced capacity due to a fire -- and a power failure at Exxon Mobil Corp's Torrance refinery was the cause.

Colten Haats, an employee at Indianola Market, said the old-time gas pump was unable to go above $3.99 back in 2012.

"I've been working here for about a year, and that was fixed before I got here, so now it can keep up with prices," Haats said. "The prices don't really affect customers, but some will say it's annoying that the prices are so high."

Harris said this spike happens every year, and tends to stabilize around Memorial Day.

"We are heading toward a surge in driving because the weather is warmer, and there's more light in the day because of Daylight Saving Time," Harris said. "Also, the switch from winter blend to summer blend gas -- which burns cleaner and has additives to keep it from evaporating -- has to be completed by May 1."

Smullin said he cut back on roadtrips when prices went up a while ago, but that doesn't really affect him because everyone eventually has to drive.

"You can cut back a certain amount, but you can't put groceries for a family of five on the back of a bicycle," he said.

Melissa Simon can be reached at 441-0508 or