Midwest propane shortage trickling down to homeowners

(WISH Photo)

COLFAX, Ind. (WISH) – Making sure thousands of Hoosier homes get enough heat this winter hasn’t been easy, specifically for propane customers.

A shortage across the Midwest isn’t letting suppliers completely re-fuel their tanks.

There are several factors contributing to the problem.

Propane companies say farmers used more propane than normal to dry out grain this year, and of course, this extremely cold winter.

Now with temperatures dropping near zero again, companies are doing their best to make sure homeowners’ tanks aren’t running on empty.

On a normal day at Sagamore Gas, a propane truck will have its tank reloaded two or three times between routes.

But it’s not a normal day. The company’s supply is hovering around only 11 percent.

“We’d like it to be a little higher, like 70 or 80 (percent), but it’s not so we’ll make due,” said co-owner Charles Hutchins.

“We’re hopeful that we’ll get another load yet today, and every day for the rest of the month, but we don’t know,” he said.

It’s not an ideal situation for Hutchins.

He said he normally gets 25,000 gallons of propane delivered to him daily. Thanks to the shortage, it’s now around 9,500 gallons.

And the effects are trickling down to his customers. The short supply is keeping him from topping off their tanks.

“We’ll take a tank from 30 to say  50 or 60 percent full and that’ll buy us two or three weeks, or a month in many cases,” he said.

The only problem is winter has two months left to go.

“Why worry about it, if it’s going to happen it’s going to happen,” exclaimed Harry Reagan.

The Sagamore customer clearly isn’t concerned, but he’s also one of the lucky ones whose tank was completely refilled before the shortage kicked in.

Not having ample warmth can be a pain, but Hutchins hopes people can weather the storm just a little bit longer.

“Hopefully this will iron itself out in two to three weeks and we can go back around and finish the job,” Reagan said.

Some states like Ohio have declared the shortage a state of emergency. It’s now allowing propane trucks to travel on the road for longer times in order to make deliveries.

So what can you do to conserve if you use propane?

Suppliers suggest using space heaters to stay warm. Also try not to cook with propane. And lastly, turn your thermostat down into the 50s.

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