SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - While most South Mississippi residents are staying warm with public utility services, others in the rural areas of the state's six bottom counties are using propane for their main source of power, and they are using it a lot.
Winter is the propane industry's Christmas. The colder the temperatures, the more gas is needed.
This year is a banner year. The difference from last year is that now gas prices are down and supply is up.
Scottie Cuevas has decades of experience in the business and is now the state fire marshal for the liquid condensed gas division. He oversees propane businesses in 14 counties as well as investigates fires.
"When cold weather's here, that's when demand comes in," Cuevas said. "All your people are heating, hot water, almost all the appliances in the house are running. Makes it a big demand for gas right now. Gas companies are backed up, sort of, with this weather, but they're managing."
Prices vary from region to region. In South Mississippi, the cost per gallon dropped 10 cents to $2.58 a gallon.
Cuevas estimates between 35,000 to 45,000 propane customers are in the bottom six counties. Most of them are residential.
While winter brings big business, it also brings some, not many, safety issues.
So far this winter, Cuevas said, there have been no reported issues with propane tanks, which he adds, are very safe in all kinds of weather.
"The big thing we worry about is people taking and putting five gallon tanks in the house, hooking up heaters, changing out appliances themselves, not putting things back correctly. These propane companies spend a lot of money training their people for safety and making sure that their customers are taken care of the best way. So safety wise, any time you have any sort of problem, the best thing is call your dealer and let him come out and check your situation out," said Cuevas.
He reminds gas customers that with any interruption in service, even if the customer changes propane providers, state law requires a safety check and a pressure check of the tank.