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      Grand Strand gas sneaks past $3 mark

      As fuel prices break the $3 barrier, most Grand Strand residents hope the increase won't break the bank.

      The price sits at a mental benchmark for some drivers, attempting to get a so-called steal by driving to the nearest station under $3.

      Irene Sfoughriskos of Horry County lives off her social security. She says the creeping fuel prices are keeping her from getting out.

      "I map out my route for the day because I don't want to waste gas," says Sfoughriskos.

      To fill up her tank, she paid more than $45. A year ago, she says, it would only take about $25 to $30.

      "If I don't have anything to do, I don't go out. I used to find things to do, but now I stay home."

      According to in July of 2008, gas prices in the U.S. averaged an all time high at $4.12, but quickly receded back to less than $2 by November that year.

      Since the December 2008 low of $1.61, numbers have steadily increased over time to the $3.17 average today, almost 50 cents higher from this time last year.

      Former New Yorker now Horry County resident, Jay Peck, is still thankful for the $3 gas prices in Myrtle Beach. "This is nothing to what they're paying up north," says Peck.

      His son and grandson are visiting this week from The Empire State. Peck looked at the $57 plus gas bill with little distain. "They paid almost 40 cents more when they filled up in New York. That's one of the reason I moved down here. No matter how much we are paying for things here, you can bet they are paying more for it there."

      Coastal Carolina University Research Economist, Rob Salvino, says the oil price increases are a trend toward where prices were at an all time high.

      "The reason those prices came down from that high point in 2008 was because of the recession," Salvino says. "These prices are a reflection of things getting back to how they used to be."

      Other reasons for the jump range from China's growing need for the commodity to the Middle East's protests that many think will disrupt the supply chain.

      Salvino says the biggest reason for the increase is the demand. "India and China are growing nations that have a high need for crude oil. These countries are buying fuel in huge numbers, driving up the price."

      He says the turmoil in the Middle East has little to do with the price of oil as of now, and drivers should expect fuel prices to keep going up.

      Horry County resident, Jonie Burleson, doesn't look at prices at the pump anymore. "I can't control what I pay for gas," says Burleson. "I travel a lot so I have to budget for it, but I know there is nothing that I can do about it personally. Five dollars is my limit. When that comes, I'll start cutting back. But until then, who knows."

      Sfoughriskos knows the rise in price is raising her temper. "It's frustrating. Everything is going up."

      California drivers are paying the highest fuel prices in the country about $3.53 per gallon. Prices here range from just less than $3 in Myrtle Beach to more than $3.10 in Pawley's Island.