Gas stations in town started the week at $239.9 a gallon for regular unleaded — down 10 cents from the week before. By Wednesday, the prices had jumped to $285.9 in reaction to the flooding from Hurricane Katrina and damage to oil refineries and pipelines along the Gulf Coast.

Thursday morning brought another shock: $305.9. By afternoon, the signs showed $319.9 and the town’s two independent retailers said they would most likely run out of gas during the long Labor Day weekend because supplies are running short and the big oil company stations get the first allotments.

This news comes just when I have to drive to Rural Retreat tonight to shoot a high school football game. I filled up the Wrangler Wednesday night and it will take a half-tank or so for the drive.

In some parts of the South, gas is already over $5 a gallon and still climbing. My yard needs mowing this weekend and that exercise alone will take $15 in gas.

While we can afford to pay such inflated prices, many people on fixed or reduced incomes cannot. Many who live in our area drive 60-100 miles roundtrip a day for work. How long can they survive with prices so high?

Some say this day was coming and we should have done more to prepare for it. That kind of hindsight will not ease the burden on people who may not be able to afford to drive to work, to the grocery store or who may be unable to buy the propane or fuel oil they need to heat their homes this winter.