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Local drivers feel squeeze at the pump
gas prices pic
Victoria Lencioni fills up her mother's car at the ARCO on Golden State Boulevard.

As gasoline prices surge, Turlockers' pocketbooks are left reeling.

Local gasoline prices have skyrocketed more than 60 cents per gallon in the last month to an average price of $4.26 per gallon, per price tracking website That's more than double the nationwide average increase last month – 27.8 cents per gallon to a $3.71 per gallon average.

“It's outrageous,” said Pat Lencioni, a local resident who commutes to Oakland daily.

Lencioni said she checks online to find the lowest gas prices in town, in hopes of avoiding some of the price bump. But if prices continue their surge past $5 per gallon, Lencioni said she may have to reconsider her driving habits.

“I guess I'll have to start riding the BART,” Lencioni said.

The price surge may recede in the short term, said Senior Petroleum Analyst Patrick DeHaan. But drivers likely haven't seen 2012's highest gas prices yet.

"Gasoline prices have spiked considerably higher in virtually every area over the last two weeks, and while I don't expect the pace of the recent rise in prices to continue for the entire month, a similar jump may again occur closer to April Fool’s Day, and it won't be a funny joke, it'll be disgusting reality," DeHaan said.

The recent increase has reconsidering its national gasoline forecast, DeHaan said. While projections had called for a national average gas price of between $3.75 and $4.15 by mid-May, that average already stands at $3.72 per gallon.

In Turlock, shoppers can find gasoline as inexpensively as $4.11 per gallon – less than the statewide average of $4.34 per gallon. But gasoline is still 44 cents per gallon higher than this day last year locally, leading experts to project record high gas prices this summer.

Tim Brown, owner of Turlock's Lightly Used Books, said he's seeing the effects of the price surge – and not only when he fuels up his “beast” of a GMC Yukon XL.

“Our sales are almost directly linked to that sign right there,” Brown said, pointing at the list of gas prices at a local ARCO station.

Books and other forms of entertainment are among the first sacrifices made by sticker-shocked consumers, Brown said. When gas prices surge, people panic and hold off on those non-essential purchases.

But once people get used to the new prices, Brown said, they start buying again.

Until then, Brown said he'll drive his other car – a more fuel efficient 1970's Volkswagen Bus – a little bit more.