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Painful price spike continues at area gas pumps

Sunday - 2/27/2011, 4:31pm  ET

WASHINGTON - Gas prices are rising sharply -- hitting a two-year high nationwide -- and you've probably noticed that prices in the D.C. area are following the trend.

A gallon of regular in the D.C. region has jumped 19 cents in the last week to $3.33 -- $3.44 for drivers who fill up in D.C.

AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman John Townsend says it's the third-largest jump in gas prices in one week in history.

"That's what's so shocking about it," Townsend says.

The national average for a regular gallon of gas sat at $3.35 as of Sunday. Townsend says with gas prices trying to catch up to spiking crude oil prices, station owners will probably keep raising their rates.

"They don't know what the next shipment is going to cost them so they want to have enough cash on hand to pay for that," he says. "It's a vicious cycle out there."

Analysts expect the turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa, along with increasing demand as spring arrives, to push prices up to $3.75 a gallon for regular.

As for how to avoid emptying your wallet at the gas station? Townsend has some common sense advice.

"Shop for the cheapest gas around, drive the most fuel-efficient car, make sure your tires are properly inflated and consolidate all your trips," he says.

WTOP's Max Smith contributed to this report. Follow Max and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)