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Staff file photo by C.B. Schmelter / Gas pumps are seen blocked off at the Walmart Neighborhood Market on Middle Valley Road on Tuesday in Chattanooga.

Gas prices on Friday marched higher in Chattanooga, having risen 18 cents in the past week, even as Colonial Pipeline replenishes its system and more stations offer fuel.

The price of a gallon of regular unleaded gas in Chattanooga rose to $2.82 per gallon on Friday, up 2 cents from Thursday, according to AAA.

Megan Cooper of AAA in Tennessee said the rate of increase has slowed as the pipeline which runs along the East Coast into the Deep South is refueled after a shut down last week.

"It will still take a number of days to get to normal," she said. "Moving forward, it's hard to say if prices have peaked for the year."

In Chattanooga, more stations were offering gas on Friday, according to the fuel availability and price tracking company GasBuddy.

Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy, said that about 44% of stations were without fuel in Chattanooga on Friday. That's down from 49% on Thursday.

DeHaan also said that more stations are coming online in Tennessee — 31% were without fuel on Friday compared to 33% on Thursday. Georgia also is seeing better numbers with 47% without fuel versus 49% a day earlier, according to GasBuddy.

A restart of the pipeline last Wednesday is helping restore the flow of gasoline across the Eastern part of the U.S.

The 5,500-mile Colonial Pipeline, which transports more than 100 million gallons of fuel per day, was hacked last Friday. According to Bloomberg News, a nearly $5 million ransom was paid.

Meanwhile, the average national gas price has climbed to almost $3.04, the highest since October 2014, according to AAA.

In Tennessee on Friday, the average price for a gallon of unleaded was $2.88, up 2 cents from Thursday and up 17 cents in a week.

In Georgia, the average price hit $2.98 on Friday, which was the same as Thursday. But the price over the past week has risen 24 cents, according to AAA.

In Dalton, a gallon of unleaded averaged $2.95 on Friday, which was identical to Thursday but up 17 cents in a week.

Cooper said that when weather events occur such as a hurricane, gas prices tend to spike quickly. But, she said, prices don't come down at the same rate.

"We might see a leveling off," she said. But, Cooper added that this time of year is when fuel prices tend to rise anyway.

Also, she said it will take time to refuel all the stations which are without gas. At the same time, if a motorist in Tennessee comes upon a station without fuel, usually there is one nearby with gas.

Earlier this week in Chattanooga, panic buying set in and created heavy demand at stations with some lines forming. But on Friday, while business was brisk as some locations, many people had already bought gas earlier in the week.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.

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