Gas Supply, Prices

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The damage from Hurricane Katrina is keeping barges from using the intracoastal waterway.

Gas stations are in short supply and what gas they can get is costing a lot more money.

While Hurricane Katrina may not have caused much damage to our area, it has effected the gas supply. The storm-damaged refineries around Louisiana and Mississippi are damaged.

Those refineries produce nearly 25 percent of the areas gasoline, meaning we could see these prices for a while.

Gas prices are reaching unprecedented highs as some stations are charging as much as $3.21 a gallon. Not only are prices rising, but many stations are running low on gas and could run out shortly.

"There could be a shortage in all the terminals in all of the southeast, are very tight on product right now, pipelines that supply the other terminals are having problems, we are on allocations, on daily allocations, so product is extremely tight right now."

Although area residents avoided most of the damage from Hurricane Katrina, they're still feeling some of the impact in their wallets.

"I think it will effect many people's budgets and I think they're gonna cut down on unnecessary trips, but we're just gonna have to do what we have to do."

Local drivers aren't happy with the situation and feel that the price hikes are unfair.

"I think that they jump the gun when raising the prices and then they take a long time to drag the prices back down."

The Express Lane stores expect to have gas through Friday, about the time another barge is due to deliver more fuel, but if that barge can't make it through the intracoastal, it could be a dry Labor Day at the pumps.

One thing that will help is consumers not hoarding gas, buying only what they need.

"There will be an ongoing supply and I don't think we'll see any significant outages for a long period of time, if everybody just tries to buy what they need to get around for a short period of time, it will be re-supplied, but just right not hoarding and stampeding into the locations is probably a bad idea."

These prices could stay this way for a long time and the gas shortage could be a long-term problem. The Coast Guard is checking to see if the intracoastal is safe and passable, but right now they're not sure it will be.

The Florida Department of Transportation has set up three message boards on I-10 westbound to alert motorists that fuel supplies are limited in the Panhandle area.