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Rising energy costs eyed amid brutal cold snap gripping U.S.

  • People ice skate at Bryant Park, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in New York. A large swath of northern New York is encased in ice and snow after days of lake-effect storms followed by an arctic cold front sending temperatures well below zero. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II) Frank Franklin II

  • Joe Scharpf cross country skis on a trail after a fresh snowfall in the south chagrin reservation of the Cleveland Metroparks, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Moreland Hills, Ohio. Scharpf said he will ski about 6 miles on the trail. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak) Tony Dejak

  • As the weather turns colder, water along the edge of one of the many creeks in the Pungo section of in Virginia Beach, Va., begins to freeze, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017. Cold temperatures are expected through next week. (L. Todd Spencer/The Virginian-Pilot via AP) L. Todd Spencer | The Virginian-Pilot

  • Icicles hang from the fountain in Virginia Beach, Va., on Thursday morning Dec. 28, 2017. L. Todd Spencer/The Virginian-Pilot via AP

  • A boy has his face bundled against temperatures in the teens on the National Mall, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) Andrew Harnik

  • Alexander Doepper of Hagen, Germany, helps his one year old son Jannis walk near the Washington Monument on the National Mall as they brave temperatures in the teens, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) Andrew Harnik

  • People walk past a blue lobster ice sculpture outside the New England Aquarium as the temperature hovers in the low teens, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Boston. The National Weather Service said there's the potential for record-breaking cold this week in New England. (AP Photo/Bill Sikes) Bill Sikes

  • Visitors to the Washington Monument on the National Mall brave temperatures in the teens, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) Andrew Harnik

  • Ana Gonzalez of New Haven, Conn., right, helps her sister Alejandrina Gonzalez, left, put on another scarf as they brave temperatures in the teens on the National Mall, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) Andrew Harnik

  • People brave temperatures in the teens as they ride on an open air second level of a tourism bus as it makes its way down the National Mall, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) Andrew Harnik

  • A family braves temperatures in the teens on the National Mall on Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Washington, D.C. AP

  • A woman braves temperatures in the teens as she makes her way to the National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) Andrew Harnik

  • A pedestrian crosses the street as the temperature hovers in the single-digits, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in downtown Boston. The National Weather Service said there's the potential for record-breaking cold this week in New England. (AP Photo/Bill Sikes) Bill Sikes

  • With temperatures in the single digits, Ray Levesque, mate of the crab/lobster boat Bradbill, makes his way across the deck covered in ice to tie off, after arriving in New Bedford, Mass., harbor on Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, from a one day fishing voyage. Temperatures across Massachusetts are not expected to rise above freezing for days. (Peter Pereira/Standard Times via AP) PETER PEREIRA

  • In this Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017 photo, with temperatures in the low teens, ice begins to make its way across the waters of Lake Shawnee in Topeka, Kan. Freezing temperatures and below-zero wind chills also socked much of the northern United States on Wednesday. (Chris Neal/The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP) CHRIS NEAL

  • In this Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2017 photo, the surf from Lake Erie pounds the shore in Dunkirk, N.Y., driven by cold winds with lake effect snow. The National Weather Service said that strong westerly winds over Lake Erie picked up moisture, developed into snow and converged with opposing winds, dumping snow in a band along the shore from Ohio to New York. (Damian Sebouhian/The Observer via AP) Damian Sebouhian

  • In this Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2017 photo, a man uses a snow blower to dig out after heavy snow fell in Dunkirk, N.Y. The National Weather Service said that strong westerly winds over Lake Erie picked up moisture, developed into snow and converged with opposing winds, dumping snow in a band along the shore from Ohio to New York. (Damian Sebouhian /The Observer via AP) Damian Sebouhian

  • Kelly Richards, left, and Lisa Rippe, jog around Lake Harriet in the sub-zero temps Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017, in Minneapolis. Richards, originally from the Twin Cities but who now lives in Texas and was visiting for the holidays, remarked to nearby walkers that the weather was great. (David Joles/Star Tribune via AP) David Joles

  • Logan Rogers pushes his bike along East Third Street in Erie, Pa., Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017. Freezing temperatures and below-zero wind chills socked much of the northern United States on Wednesday, and the snow-hardened city of Erie, dug out from a record snowfall. (Jack Hanrahan/Erie Times-News via AP) Jack Hanrahan

  • Chelse Volgyes clears snow from her car in Erie, Pa., Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017. Freezing temperatures and below-zero wind chills socked much of the northern United States on Wednesday, and the snow-hardened city of Erie, dug out from a record snowfall. (Jack Hanrahan/Erie Times-News via AP) Jack Hanrahan

  • In this Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2017 photo, a truck stopped at the top of a hill after heavy snow fell in Cassadaga, N.Y. The National Weather Service said that strong westerly winds over Lake Erie picked up moisture, developed into snow and converged with opposing winds, dumping snow in a band along the shore from Ohio to New York. (Greg Bacon/The Observer via AP) Greg Bacon

  • People pose for photographs in front of a frozen water fountain at Bryant Park, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in New York. A large swath of northern New York is encased in ice and snow after days of lake-effect storms followed by an arctic cold front sending temperatures well below zero. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II) Frank Franklin II



Associated Press
Thursday, December 28, 2017

Plunging temperatures across half the country on Thursday underscored a stark reality for low-income Americans who rely on heating aid: Their dollars aren’t going to go as far this winter because of rising energy costs.

Forecasters warned people to be wary of hypothermia and frostbite from an arctic blast that’s gripping a large swath from the Midwest to the Northeast, where the temperature, without the wind chill factored in, dipped to minus 32 on Thursday morning in Watertown, N.Y.

Even before the cold snap, the Department of Energy projected that heating costs were going to track upward this winter, and many people are keeping a wary eye on their fuel tanks to ensure they don’t run out.

The burden caused by higher prices and higher energy usage is felt by all Americans, especially those who struggle to stay warm.

Elizabeth Parker, 88, of Sanford, Maine, said she lives in fear of running out of heating fuel and remains vigilant in monitoring the gauge outside her trailer. She said she is allowed to request a fuel delivery thanks to federal aid, but only when her gauge dips to one-eighth of a tank.

“I couldn’t get along without it,” said Parker, who lives with her husband, Robert Parker, 93, along with a cat, a dog and four birds.

Prolonged, dangerous cold weather this week has sent advocates for the homeless scrambling to get people off the streets and to bring in extra beds for them. Warming centers also were set up in some locations. Frozen pipes and dead car batteries added to the misery across the region.

President Donald Trump said the East Coast could be facing “the COLDEST New Year’s Eve on record” and poked fun at scientists who say the earth, in general, is getting warmer.

“Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against,” Trump tweeted. “Bundle up!”

Trump has repeatedly expressed skepticism about climate change science, calling global warming a “hoax” created by the Chinese, and has announced his intention to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement aimed at curbing greenhouse gas production. The U.N.’s weather and climate agency, though, has said 2017 is on track to be the hottest year on record aside from those impacted by the El Nino phenomenon.

Despite the cold, there was some good news for recipients of federal aid from the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Trump, a Republican, released nearly $3 billion, or roughly 90 percent, of the funding in October after previously trying to eliminate the program.

But projected energy cost increases will effectively reduce the purchasing power by $330 million, making it imperative that the remaining funds be released, said Mark Wolfe, executive director of the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association.

This winter, energy costs were projected to grow by 12 percent for natural gas, 17 percent for home heating oil, 18 percent for propane and 8 percent for electricity, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Energy prices may be even higher than those projections. According to Wolfe, colder weather could lead to even higher levels of consumption, and resulting prices could push the cost of winter heating up to $1,800 this winter for those using heating oil, 45 percent more than last year’s level.

In North Carolina, the governor signed an emergency declaration to allow heating fuel to be more easily distributed during the chilly blast.

On Thursday, cold weather records were set from Arkansas to Maine, and the cold air will linger through the weekend, reaching as far south as Texas and the Florida Panhandle through the weekend.

In New Hampshire, the cold set a record for the date at minus 34 atop the Northeast’s highest peak, Mount Washington, where a video was posted showing a weather observer emptying a pitcher of boiling water into the air, where it immediately turns to snow.

In the Midwest, temperatures in Minneapolis aren’t expected to top zero this weekend, and it likely will be in the teens when the ball drops on New Year’s Eve in New York City.

It was so cold officials in New Jersey canceled a New Year’s Day polar bear plunge, in which swimmers dash into the Atlantic Ocean.

A winter storm warning was in effect for much of Montana, calling for significant snowfall followed by dangerously cold temperatures as 2017 comes to an end.