Goshen News, Goshen, IN

January 24, 2014

Frigid temps taxing resources, utilities

Though not record-breaking, frigid temps taxing resources, utilites

By JOHN KLINE
john.kline@goshennews.com

---- — GOSHEN — It’s been a bitterly cold January, but likely not a record-breaking one.

According to Courtney Obergfell, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service Northern Indiana office, the average temperature in Goshen for January so far has been 18.5 degrees. However, while undeniably cold, that average is not the coldest on record for the Goshen area in recent years.

“Our records for Goshen go back to 2001, and for that period of record, this January would be in the top five coldest,” Obergfell said from her office Friday afternoon. “The coldest January on record for Goshen was 2009, and that was 14.6 degrees on average.”

Comparatively, Obergfell said the records for South Bend, which go back over 100 years, indicate this January will likely fall within the top 15 coldest for the city.

“Those figures will likely change a little bit in the next week, but most of this area is in that 18 to 19 degree average for the whole month right now,” Obergfell said. “So we’ll likely not see any broken records for the month, but it has definitely been the coldest we’ve seen in a while around here.”

And according to Obergfell, the Goshen area is likely not going to see much of a respite from cold weather until well into next week.

“It looks like the coldest air this week will come in around Monday and into early Wednesday,” Obergfell said. “So Monday we’ll see highs in the single digits, and Monday night we could see lows in the negative double digits, so around -10 degrees or below. Then the highs on Tuesday will be right around 0 degrees, and then Tuesday night will likely be below 0 again, somewhere in the -5 to -10 degrees range.”

Heading into Wednesday, Obergfell said temperatures should start heading back up into the single digits above 0, with the weather starting to warm up into the low 20s heading into Thursday.

“So we’ll likely see nothing above freezing for the next seven days or so at least,” Obergfell said.

Along those lines, a Winter Weather Advisory has been issued for the Goshen area until 4 p.m. today with snow accumulations of between 2 and 4 inches expected by late tonight.

During the Winter Weather Advisory, travel will likely be dangerous due to blowing and drifting snow, causing primarily travel difficulties. Residents should be prepared for snow-covered roads and limited visibilities and use caution while driving, especially in open areas.

Propane shortage

While we may not be breaking any cold weather records here in Goshen this month, there are two industries that are absolutely booming due to all the frigid temperatures: propane and natural gas suppliers.

So busy is the industry, in fact, that concerns are mounting about a possible shortage in the area, especially when it comes to the local propane supply.

“We’re very worried about our propane supply,” said Brian Clayton, senior energy division manager with the North Central Co-Op in Goshen. “With all the cold weather we’re having, the propane industry is facing something right now that they’ve never faced before. So we’re just trying to keep up with it and do the best we can for our customers. So far we’ve been able to get enough to keep our customers supplied with propane, but the supply is a very critical issue in the propane industry right now, especially in the Midwest.”

And with temperatures early next week expected to plummet into the -5 to -10 degree range yet again, Clayton said the demand for propane isn’t likely to slow any time soon.

“The cold temps have definitely put a bigger demand on propane this month compared to previous years around this time,” Clayton said. “The usage is definitely up compared to what it has been in the past, just because of the cold. We’ve been extremely busy with our deliveries, with propane especially.”

So what happens if the local propane supply drops low enough that businesses such as the co-op aren’t able to service all of their customers?

“It’s a thought I don’t even want to think about,” Clayton said. “Let’s just hope it doesn’t come to that.”

Should it happen, Clayton said propane users will just have to find alternative sources of heat, such as electric heaters or wood-burning furnaces, until the propane supply can be replenished.

“But we’re a supply company, and our goal is to keep each and every propane customer we have supplied with propane,” Clayton said. “It may not be as much as they like, but so far we’ve been able to do that. But it definitely hasn’t been easy.”

NIPSCO

A call to the Northern Indiana Public Service Co. Friday also revealed higher than average energy usage by its customers this January. Included in that increased usage is natural gas, which is also experiencing some shortages across the country due to ongoing winter weather events, such as the recent polar vortex that blanketed much of the country in crippling cold.

“With recent temperatures as low as they’ve been, we definitely expect higher than average usage this month,” said Eddie Melton, NIPSCO manager of corporate citizenship.

However, according to Melton, NIPSCO at least is not currently in any danger of a natural gas shortage.

“We always monitor that,” Melton said, “and we have no concerns about our supply at this time.”