The price of gasoline in the Washington area surpassed the national average this week for the first time in the current price spiral with premium gas at full service stations now averaging 90 cents a gallon, the American Automobile Association reported yesterday.
This news came on top of reports of continued fuel shortages and early closings by hundreds of service stations yesterday as the area headed uncertainly into the long Memorial Day Weekend.
Glenn T. Lashley, Washington area AAA spokesman, said an AAA survey found gasoline prices here "are now above the national average in all categories - full service, self-service, regular, premium and unleaded."
The breakdown of prices per gallon looks like this, Lashley said:
Overall, Lashley said, fuel prices have increased 15.5 percent in the Washington area since Jan. 1. Regular gas at self-service stations has shown the biggest jump, he said, from 62.5 cents to 80.7 cents - a 29.5 percent increase.
Prices have been creeping upward for weeks. Pumps at some stations in the area yesterday showed premium gasoline selling for 94 and 95 cents a gallon.
Lashley said most area stations-85 percent-should be open today, but warned that many will close in the afternoon and evening.
The outlook for the rest of the Memorial Day weekend is even bleaker, he said. An AAA spot check shows that only 9 percent of area stations are expected to be open Sunday and 25 percent Monday.
Several stations owners and managers reported heavy demand and long lines for fuel yesterday, as area residents stocked up for the weekend and headed out of town for the beaches and mountains.
"we've been four lines deep all day here, and I closed at 4 p.m.," said Chuck Parcelles at the Walnut Hill Shell station in Gaithersburg. "I pumped over 6,0000 gallons in eight hours . . . I'll be open may be four hours (today), and then I'll be closed to Tuesday."
"I had to shut down (in midafternoon)," said Jim Gray at Grays's Texaco station at 3332 Lee Highway in Arlington. "I've got 2,000 gallons left in the ground, and it's got to last to June 2 when I get my next delivery."
Vic Rasheed, executive director of the Washington-Maryland Service Station Association, said yesterday's cloudy and showery weather discouraged some travelers and helped avert an even more serious drain on fuel supplies.
"If it had been a bright day with a good forecast for the weekend. I think we would have been in trouble," he said.
Rasheed said early closings by many stations yesterday intensified demand at stations that stayed open.
"Monday (Memorial Day) will be sort of iffy," he said. "A lot of dealers close early today and say they won't open till Tuesday."
AAA said gas supplies should be generally more plentifull in rural areas away from Washington, especially to the south. An automobile association telephone recording (dial AAA-9000) gives updated reports on gasoline availability on major highways throughout the northeast area of the country.
In the District of Columbia, motorists may call 628-3181 today and tomorrow between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. for a list of stations that are open in the city.