Austin Utilities orders more gas; Frigid weather to continue; heating assistance available

Published 8:51 am Thursday, January 4, 2018

The National Weather Service warned of wind chills as low as 30 degrees below zero overnight Wednesday. Frostbite can occur in as little as 30 minutes in such conditions, it said.

Tonight, however, a warmer wind chill will set in for the Austin area, only about 20 degrees below zero.

Yes, Austin and its surroundings remain in the icebox; and when temperatures rise to almost 30 on Sunday, it might snow before plummeting into another frigid week.

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It’s a winter that has led Austin Utilities to buy more natural gas than anticipated, but otherwise  all systems are operating well, said General Manager Mark Nibaur.

Austin Utilities is facing the same situation as many Midwest utilities, according to Nibaur, in that demand has exceeded  their natural gas projections.

The situation likely will lead to some higher gas bills, which the Minnesota Department of Commerce anticipates will be a challenge to some. The agency is encouraging eligible Minnesotans to get help paying their heating bills and stay safe through the state’s Energy Assistance Program.

“Heating your home is a necessity in Minnesota, and energy assistance is essential for vulnerable Minnesotans, especially low-income families with young children, people with disabilities, veterans and seniors,”said Commerce Commissioner Jessica Looman.

Households that earn less than 50 percent of the state’s median annual income ($48,077 for a family of four) are eligible for the Energy Assistance Program.

In October, the Energy Assistance Program received more than $102 million in federal funds, or about 90 percent of the total funds expected for the program this year. The program served over 126,000 Minnesota households last year, with an average grant of about $520.

Applicants have until May 31, 2018, to apply. However, energy assistance funding is limited and administered on a first-come, first-served basis.

To get an application call 1-800-944-3281 or go to for assistance.