National propane shortage still affecting Hoosiers during frigid temps, harsh winds

Prices reach $6 per gallon in some places

INDIANAPOLIS - A nationwide propane shortage couldn't come at a worse time. With deadly wind chills on the way, people are watching the amount of fuel that's left to heat their homes get smaller.

Indiana has eased restrictions on propane transportation deliveries through the end of the month to truck in as much as possible. Ten percent of the state's homes use propane for heat - among them, Randolph County resident Harold Cook.

"[It could be] 50 below zero maybe with the wind chill," Cook said. "We'll just stay inside. We can't go outside in this."

Cook and his wife Nancy live in one of 6 million homes nationwide that use propane for heat. The fuel source, which used to cost around $2 per gallon only a short time ago, is now running in the $5-$6 range - that is, if you can find it.

"We're just going to make the best of it," Cook said. "I mean, what can we do?"

The Cooks have turned down the thermostat, put quilts over windows and are trying to conserve the propane that may last a few more days. Producers blame high demand, extreme cold and a Midwest pipeline down for maintenance – but the shortage couldn't come at a worse time. Frigid air is set to arrive overnight by Monday.

As of Monday morning, temperatures were forecasted to be in the single digits, with wind chills in the negatives.

The plunging temperatures have Indianapolis city officials concerned, warning people to fill their gas tanks, shovel sidewalks and prepare for extreme weather.

For those using propane to heat their homes, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard says conservation is key.

"We want people to conserve propane as possible," Ballard said. "Don't overexert on propane."

Families like the Cooks are now told it could be three weeks before they might get a propane delivery.

"I think we'll drain some pipes and close off the rest of the house and hunker down in one or two rooms and ride it out," Nancy Cook said.

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