I tend to agree with this post that this will be a rough winter. Go read NYCO's blog.
There's soaring natural gas prices:
SYRACUSE, Sept. 15, 2005 -- Higher commodity prices could result in Niagara Mohawk’s natural gas customers seeing a 35 percent increase in heating bills this winter based on current market conditions, the company said today. The projected increase is based on average usage for a typical winter. Market prices, a customer’s natural gas usage and weather will ultimately determine the actual bill impacts.We used an estimated 1016 therms last winter (damn single pane windows!) So at that rate, our bill should increase to approx $1472 for the "six month" heating period from Nov to April. Hopefully replacement windows will reduce that increase, and allow us to lower the thermostat.
At last year’s commodity prices a typical residential customer who would ordinarily use 952 therms during a normal heating season (November to April) would have paid about $1,020 over the six-month period. At this winter’s projected commodity prices, the same amount of usage would cost $1,380.
An over-heated Lake Ontario producing more lake effect snow:
And local residents already strained with higher gasoline costs.
(click for enlargement)
A 44% increase over last winter's prices.
Combine those energy cost increases with your 3-4% cost of living adjustment (or none at all), and it is a combination for financial hardship. Fewer Christmas presents under the tree mean fewer temporary workers hired during the holiday season. Poor 4th quarter results leading to a blizzard of pink-slips in January. Or, we "trudge on" as "Americans" charging our way deeper into debt, maintaining a lifestyle that is unobtainable, and the bankruptcies/foreclosures start to roll in the same time the holiday bills do. Hell, even the foliage watchers need to be enticed to get up to Vermont this year:
Still, gas prices, which averaged $3.15 a gallon in New England on Thursday, are clearly on the minds of visitors. The Green Mountain Inn in Stowe extended a promotion that gave visitors a $50 gas card for their return trip home.What can you do?
Time to batten down the hatches in the Northeast this winter. Seal and caulk around windows and doors. Add insulation. Consider efficient burning woodstoves and fireplace inserts (or have a friend or neighbor that has one that you can stay with in a pinch.) Consider energy saving landscaping methods. The Red Cross has a great brochure on food and water for an emergency (warning .pdf file) well worth the download. Stock up on high energy foods in your pantry.
More winter emergency preparedness:
CDC (in depth and highly recommended)
Ready.gov (basic preparation)
The bottom line (my $0.02):
Help your friends and neighbors. Prepare in advance. If you know how to do something like caulk or insulate a home, teach others, so they can in turn help others. If you have a back up supply of heat or a generator, offer your home to your neighbors in an emergency. Speak to the elderly or infirmed in your neighborhood, and make sure that they have someone to turn to in the event of power outage or natural gas disruption. As we've seen with Katrina, community support is very important, and we need to be as self sufficient as our means allow. Those with more, should be prepared to help others with less.
God willing, this winter will not be a killer, and those of us in upstate NY will just have the usual inconveniences that we face each year.