Residents Cope With Propane Shortage - WBAY

Residents Cope With Propane Shortage

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Marinette county has been hit particularly hard by the shortage.

More than 20 percent of the population, about 8000 people rely on propane for heat and for hot water.

The county's emergency management director says most of those people are either running really low or are out of fuel.

In the Northwoods beneath an electric blanket and layers of fleece sits author Janet Elaine Smith

"I like my books to be fun and uplifting and have a happy ending," says Smith.

She's written 23 books, survived a flood, a stroke, a heart attack and now, 2 days without propane in dangerously cold temperatures.

"We had one space heater and a friend of ours from Beecher brought two more and also brought electric blankets and boy it feels good at night," says Smith.

A coffee pot and espresso machine take the place of a hot shower.

"All you can do is warm some water up and scrub the best you can," she says with a laugh.

Many others are running out of propane too.

"It's just been really emotional. It's hard ... it's scary," says Joy Mataya holding back tears.

She called everyone she could think of in an attempt to fill her tank.

"Every company even the big ones were not taking new customers until after February 1st," says Mataya.

She thought she'd have to leave her home.

"I actually made preparations to move in with my sister," she says.

Today she got an unexpected call, she was accepted as a client by a gas company who still has propane. 

"They told me at the beginning of the week they're gonna bring me gas. I know! I just want to squeal! I told her, when I get off the phone I'm screaming so loud I would break your eardrums," says Mataya giddy with excitement and tears in her eyes.

With propane prices skyrocketing up to $6 a gallon, switching propane providers isn't an option for Smith 

"I can't go someplace else, I can't afford to.  I live on social security and VA widow's pension," she says.

At this point no one knows when or how this propane drought story will end.

"In my books, I can always make a happy ending, I'm just trying to figure out how to do that in real life," says Smith.

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