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Propane Prices Hard on Thousands of Northland Homeowners

Updated: 01/30/2014 10:28 PM
Created: 01/30/2014 9:51 PM WDIO.com
By: Maarja Anderson

The propane crisis is a growing concern for Northlanders heating with propane as the frigid temperatures continue. More than 34,000 Northland homes use propane.

Local agencies are jumping in to make sure homes do not go without heat, but the crisis is causing hardship on many families.

"Yesterday was our first fill since all the rumors started and we were surprised our first 200 gallons was $4.89," said Gerry Goldfarb in his rural Duluth home.

Last year, Goldfarb paid $1.69 for a gallon of propane. Two receipts show the jump. A bill from December is around $600. A month later, a fill-up cost them nearly $1,100.

The family is now making adjustments to stay comfortable.

"I went to Home Depot and picked up a couple of electric heaters and we turned down the thermostat, at night especially," he said.

Their situation has the Goldfarbs wondering what other homeowners are doing.

"There's a lot of people I've been talking to that are scared," said Lynn Roehl.

Roehl has lived in her home outside of Cloquet for 18 years and has never seen propane prices jump like this before. She says her propane is now up to $4.39 a gallon. Living on a fixed income, Roehl said she can't afford the increase.

Like the Goldfarbs, Roehl has turned down her heat.

"I've been keeping my thermostat between 55 and 60 and I've just bought an electric heater," she said.

Some local agencies, such as Carlton County, are hoping to help by connecting residents with resources.

"People are dipping into vacation funds or having to pay for propane specifically with credit cards," said emergency manager Brian Belich.

Belich said local propane companies are rationing their fuel and so far no customers are without, but residents like Roehl have one question.

"Once we get all the propane back in the state, are they going to lower the prices back so we can afford to put the gas in?" she asked.

Officials say it's tough to know when or if the price will go down, but until then they encourage homeowners to use caution while using other heat sources, such as space heaters.

Emergency assistance is available for those in need in both Minnesota and Wisconsin. The hotlines are listed below:

  • Minnesota: 1-800-657-3504
  • Wisconsin: 1-866-HEAT-WIS

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