(USA Today) -- Powerball fever is raising the size of Wednesday night's jackpot again - to at least $550 million.
With less than 12 hours to go before drawing, the Multi-State Lottery Association added at least $50 million to the jackpot. It stood at $325 million Saturday and rose to $500 million Tuesday, with hopefuls snapping up $2 tickets at a rate of more than 100,000 a minute.
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MUSL director Chuck Strutt says today's sales will "easily" push the $550 million jackpot higher.
Buyers in 42 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands have until about an hour before the drawing, scheduled for 10:59 ET. The winning ticket is worth about $360 million after federal taxes.
Even past multi-millionaire lottery winners are gripped by Powerball fever. Vietnamese immigrant Dung Tran - among eight Nebraska ConAgra employees who split a $365 million jackpot in February 2006, was buying in. He walked into the same Lincoln U-Stop he bought the winning ticket six years ago, purchasing 22 tickets for tonight's drawing from the same store clerk.
"We joked about it, says cashier Janice Mitzner. "I told him, Wouldn't it be something if you won again?"
At New Orleans' Discount City convenience store on South Claiborne Ave., hopefuls were asking for tickets at 4 a.m., four hours before the store's Powerball machine is switched on, owner Rami Aj said. But a bigger crush of customers is expected later this evening, he said.
When the Mega Millions jackpot reached $656 million in February, lines snaked out the door, says Ajsaid, who is adding a worker just to man Powerball machine.
"Tonight will be really heavy," he said. "Everyone's talking about it."
Keoka Powell, 40, bought two tickets early. The school bus driver doesn't usually play, but felt compelled by the high stakes jackpot. If she wins, she'll take her three sons -ages 10 to 20 - on a Disney cruise and travel to Paris and Japan.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance," Powell said.