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County didn’t feel the heat of propane shortage

It’s up for grabs as to whether it was Mark Twain or his friend, Charles Dudley Warner, who first penned the phrase, “Everyone talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”

There has been plenty of talk about the weather around here for the past couple of years.

New words have been added to our vocabulary – derecho and polar vortex. Another word has been on the minds and lips of folks in the past month, as well. And that word is “propane.”

News reports talked about shortages even before the January cold snap. The mid-west felt the pinch more so than any other area of the country. Increased exports played a part, as did an unusually wet harvest which increased farmers’ demand for propane to dry corn. When the temperatures plunged, the price of propane spiked, shooting up $3 in one day to put the cost at more than $5 in several states.

But here, in Pocahontas County, the increase was minimal by comparison.

“Propane was $2.14 on January 1,” said Southern States Cooperative manager Robert Lee. “By January 31, it was $2.61.”

Southern States employees have been working seven days a week to meet the needs of their customers.

“The propane is out there,” Lee said. “It’s the trucking – the transportation – that has slowed down our supply. We got a load Thursday night about midnight, then the trucks went back to sit at the facility and wait for the plant to open. We got another load Friday at 6 p.m.”

Lee said the propane supplier’s facility, located near the Ohio River, is only open from about 7 or 7:30 a.m. to 4 or 4:30 p.m. and it is “piled up with trucks” during that time. Propane consumption is up about 30 percent. But, at that, he feels it is temporary.

“We haven’t seen the whole nation this cold at one time,” Lee said. “Usually the cold weather just hits in pockets. We’re keeping our head above water, and people should not panic.”

The warm days of this past weekend will help to lessen demand, and allow time to replenish supplies.

Lee said customers should not call for a fill-up until their tank is at less than 40 percent.

“If someone is at ten or twenty percent, they are priority,” he said.

Southern States had a plan in place to meet the needs and to ensure supply.

“We will limit drops so everyone gets some [propane],” he said. “The plan is to dole it out so everyone is taken care of. No one will be out. No one will have to panic.”

Lee said the store’s Summer Fill-up Program is its winter insurance, as the winter allotment of propane is based on the amount of propane delivered during the Summer Fill-up period.

“This is not a time to panic,” he said. “This is a time to be diligent on usage – turn down the thermostats.”

Jaynell Graham may be contacted at jsgraham

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