* $2.99 - Gas prices at stations at Wilcox and Tunnel boulevards Wednesday
* $3.16 - Average price of a gallon of gas in Chattanooga Wednesday, down 40 cents a gallon from a year ago
* $3.45 - Average price of a gallon of gas nationwide Wednesday, down 36 cents a gallon from a year ago
Source: AAA fuel cost survey
Drivers hit the pumps Wednesday as Chattanooga gas prices dropped under $3 in parts of the city.
Salesman Mark Covington filled up at the Kanku Citgo on Wilcox Boulevard, where prices sat at $2.99 a gallon. Covington lives in Mississippi and drives about 1,000 miles a week for his job. He always follows the app on his iPhone to find a city's cheapest gas, because when you drive that much even a few cents a gallon make a difference, he said.
"I saw this and whipped in," he said. "My company pays me cents per mile, so the cheaper I can get the gas, the more money I make."
Chattanooga's average gas price was $3.16 on Wednesday, 40 cents cheaper than the year-ago price and 81 cents cheaper than the region's record high of $3.97, which occurred almost exactly five years ago in September 2008.
All the forces that influence gas prices are pointing down right now, said Don Lindsey, Tennessee public affairs director for the AAA.
A bit of calm in the Middle East is helping to drop oil prices and ease the fear of supply disruptions, Lindsey said. And as the United States shifts into the fall, people tend to drive less, dropping demand. The nation also is switching from summer gas blends to winter blends, which are cheaper to produce.
"But that being said, it's gasoline," Lindsey said. "It doesn't take but somebody sneezing somewhere the wrong way and the prices get driven up."
Nationally, gas prices averaged $3.44 Wednesday, down from last month's average of $3.54. Tennessee is one of the cheapest eight states in the nation for gas prices, Lindsey said. GasBuddy, an online organization that tracks gas
prices, ranked nearly 6,000 cities and towns in the United States and Canada in August, and put Chattanooga in the top 200 cheapest spots.
Chattanooga was ranked as the 182nd cheapest city, well ahead of Nashville, which was ranked 1,219, and Atlanta, ranked 3,159. That's good news for bargain hunters like Terrance Wallace, who drove to the Kanku's on Wilcox from Ringgold in order to snag the $2.99 gas.
"I've got an app that tells me where the cheap gas is," he said. "I always follow the app. "
The national per gallon price has averaged above $3 for more than 1,000 days in a row for the first time ever, according to the AAA. The last time the national average dropped below $3 was in December 2010. In Chattanooga, gas prices dipped below $3 in December 2012 and haven't since, according to Times Free Press records.
Chattanoogan Shaquela Collier said she did a double-take at the pump Wednesday.
"I'm shocked," she said. "It was $3.13 last night so when I saw $2.99, I had to look at it twice."
Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.