Spiking gas prices and the potential for some nasty weather might make the the Labor Day holiday challenging for local travelers.
Blame Hurricane Isaac, which made landfall Wednesday in Louisiana. Already the storm has contributed to gas prices rising overnight to nearly $4 a gallon and could spin off heavy rainfall and fast-forming tornadoes if conditions are ripe.
Mark Dahmer, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Indianapolis, said most areas of Indiana should see 1 to 3 inches of rain and isolated amounts of 3 to 4 inches starting Friday evening and continuing into Sunday morning.
Al Shipe, a National Weather Service hydrologist, said parts of Indiana could get as much as 7 inches. The pace of the rainfall and the ground’s ability to absorb it quickly — it’s dry and thirsty, at least — will determine whether we see flooding in some of Bartholomew County’s low-lying areas.
The bottom line is this: If you’re planning to travel during the Labor Day weekend, don’t take any unnecessary chances.
Dahmer said cars easily can get swept up in high water. If people get stuck, they endanger not only themselves but also the emergency workers who come to their rescue.
He said that if an isolated tornado strikes, it likely will be of a weak variety that forms quickly. Such tornadoes sometimes result from weather patterns influenced by hurricanes.
“It’s still a tornado, and it can still cause damage,” Dahmer said. “Just be smart out there and keep yourself safe.”
Gas prices alone might make people think twice about traveling anyway. Most gas stations in Columbus were selling regular Wednesday for $3.99 a gallon, according to the gasbuddy.com website. Sam’s Club was selling it for $3.89. The Shell Station on Jonesville Road was selling it for $4.15.
Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst at Gasbuddy, blamed the hurricane for one-third of the spike. But he blamed a drop in refineries’ oil production for the remaining two-thirds.
He said he doubts any link exists between the Labor Day holiday and the spike in gas prices.
“Gas prices fluctuate, and that’s just a fact of life,” he said. “Folks have a tendency to not remember when the price goes down.”
This is the most gas has cost in Bartholomew County since it rose to $3.95 at some gas stations early this month.
Gas prices hit a record high here in May 2011 when most stations were selling a gallon for $4.29. The average price that year was $3.53.
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