Willie Hugh of Davenport did a double-take Thursday after he plunged the gas pump nozzle into his 2004 Buick LaSabre and saw the price of regular unleaded at a Kwik Shop in Davenport.

"I can live with this," he said of the $2.99-a-gallon gas.

His reaction echoed throughout the Quad-Cities, at least on the Iowa side, where gas prices average 30 cents less than on the Illinois side and dipped below $3 for the first time in a while.

According to GasBuddy.com, which tracks gas prices, 12 gas stations in Davenport, one in Bettendorf, one in Eldridge and one in Walcott sold regular unleaded for less than $3.

"I haven't seen prices this low in a long, long time," Melvin Silas of Rock Island said as he pulled his 1998 Chevrolet Silverado pickup up to the pump opposite Hugh's.

"I love it," Silas, a retired construction worker, added. "It's about time. I hope it stays down."

Gas prices are falling everywhere, although the national and statewide averages aren't as low as what Quad-Citians are seeing at the pump.

According to AAA's Fuel Gauge Report, the national average was $3.33. A month ago, it was $3.46, and a year ago, it was $3.63.

Gail Weinholzer, director of public affairs for AAA Minnesota/Iowa, said several factors explain why prices are dropping.

Just after Labor Day, when the summer driving season was still in full swing, crude oil sold at $110 per barrel, she said. On Thursday, crude oil sold for $96 per barrel.

There's a decline in leisure driving from the summer to fall and winter months. Although she expects a spike in prices around the holidays, people generally drive the most over the summer, she said.

Also, oil production in the Gulf Coast region was spared by what has so-far been a mild hurricane season, unlike years past, she said.

With these factors, Weinholzer doesn't anticipate the national average to drop below $3, which it did three years ago.

Iowa's statewide average, which was at $3.25 on Thursday, stands a better chance. She expects Iowa's gas prices to continue declining into the weekend.

She said local competition was driving the decline in the Quad-Cities.

"We're certainly thrilled," Judy Meyer, AAA Bettendorf branch manager, said.

Eric Tracy, assistant manager at Casey's General Store at West Locust and Fairmount streets, Davenport, saw a boost in customers Thursday morning buying gas at $2.99 a gallon.

"It's a pretty busy gas day," he said.

He said that at 7 a.m., he got the call from corporate to lower the price to $2.99, but he's received no indication how long it'll stay there or whether it will drop even lower.

"It could change day to day," Tracy said.

His customers took notice. He said when a cashier still thought the price was $3.04, a customer quickly corrected her.

Not everyone noticed. George Hamilton of Donahue, Iowa, was the only customer at a BP in Davenport, which still posted $3.05 gas on its sign.

When asked if he was aware gas at neighboring stations had dropped below $3, Hamilton turned to look at the pump, saying he didn't know.

"I'm almost on empty," Hamilton said.

Turns out his car, a 1993 Ford Festiva, doesn't take well to the cheap stuff, he said. Instead, he dropped $20 worth of high grade at $3.85 a gallon into the tank.

"This car runs better on it," he said.

Larry Keyes of Davenport found gas at $2.94 a gallon at SubXpress & Gas on West Locust Street, Davenport. But he doesn't think it's going to last.

"The holidays are coming up," Keyes said. "They're going to gouge us because they know we'll be traveling."

Keyes has one theory why gas prices have dropped.

"It's because of the government shutdown," he said. "No one was working. No one was buying fuel. So there's a glut."

Chris Nichols of Davenport, who said he drives 160 to 200 miles every day and burns through 12 gallons looking for scrap metal to sell, was happy with the falling gas prices.

"I burn a lot of gas," he said, filling up his 1987 Dodge Dakota at a Davenport Kwik Shop.

A metal scrapper for 10 years who on a busy day earns $300, Nichols said he's had to downsize from a V8 to a V6 engine because of generally rising gas prices and a downturn in the economy.

"It's competitive," he said. "Now, there's so many scrappers out there because of the economy."

Although his pickup is 25 years old, it has only 129,000 miles.

"It gets me where I need to go," he said.

Now maybe he can save a little at the pump.