RALEIGH, N.C. — This is usually the weekend when North Carolina motorists head to the beach for their last summer getaway. But with gas at better than $3 a gallon in some places, people are choosing an armchair over a beach chair.
Going into the Labor Day weekend, the traditional marker of the end of the summer tourist season, the state's tourism industry faced tightening gas supplies, skyrocketing prices and Gov. Mike Easley's request that people curtail unnecessary driving.
"You don't think about gas until you reach the boiling point," said customer Charles Tillery. "I don't even have 12 gallons and it's $40 already."
Tillery works for a road contractor, who is considering a 4-day work week to cut back on fuel. He worries that means a cutback in hours too.
"Forty hours is better than nothing, but I count on that overtime," he said.
The gas station owner said he does not control the prices and he does not make much money on the gas anyway. He said the money is made in the store, so if he runs out of regular gas, he fears he will lose that traffic.
Before Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, AAA Carolinas had forecast that slightly more than a million North Carolinians would travel this weekend.
Instead, AAA estimates the number of North Carolina motorists driving 50 miles or more from home will drop 10 percent to 15 percent compared to past Labor Day holidays.
The effect on hotels on the coast and in the mountains is spotty. Some hotels reported little or no impact, while others handled a wave of cancellations with fears of more.