MONROE COUNTY, Mich. - Monique Rae is dialing down to 65 and wearing sweaters inside her Monroe County home, but her propane bills this winter have been staggering.
"The worst we paid is $800 for one month of heat. It's cost us almost double to heat our home," she said.
About 10 percent of Michigan homeowners heat with propane. The shortage began last year when harvested crops had to be dried. Then relentless cold set in, pushing supplies down and prices up.
Krzyske Brothers Company supplies propane to about 1,200 in southern Wayne County and northern Monroe County.
John Krzyke's great grandpa started the business in 1891. John's been selling propane since the 1970s
"Never seen shortages and price increases like that," he said.
John's drivers typically deliver more than 300 gallons. He's had to ration it to 200.
"It puts a lot of strain on our system because it means extra stops," he said.
In February his prices peaked at $3.89 a gallon. In other parts of Michigan people paid as much as $5-$6 a gallon.
"It means I have to be more flexible in how people pay because they weren't budgeting for this kind of an increase," said Krzyke. "
The state of Michigan has doubled to $14 million assistance for low income propane users. Other customers are relying more on alternative ways to heat their homes.
Others have stopped using propane and gone to burning wood pellets.
Propane supplies have recently stabilized and prices are dropping. Still, customers can only hope that history doesn't repeat itself next winter.
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