Extreme cold has local propane companies struggling to keep up with demand

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TONGANOXIE, Kan. — The extreme cold is creating a surge in demand for propane, which is the only heat source for many in rural communities. Some families are now struggling to stay warm as they await delivery of fresh fuel. 
 
Cary Ditty runs a small auto shop beside his Tonganoxie home. This weekend, the shop got pretty chilly. 

“Well just like everyone else, kind of come up out of nowhere. Not used to that kind of low temperatures. I was out here working Saturday and in the house and no heat inside, so I started looking at the furnace,” Ditty said. 
 
He called for help and swapped parts on the furnace but still had no heat. Because he’s on a “keep full” list,” Cary’s last thought was being out of propane. 
 
“I go out there and check and yeah, it was bone dry,” Ditty said. 
 
In 21 years at this home, that’s never happened. He fired up small heaters to keep warm and it took more than two days for a truck to come by and fill the tank up again. 
 
“I just feel sorry for the people that hopefully they can stay warm and maybe a few more days and we’ll be out of all this,” Ditty said. 
 
Jessica Smith lives in this remote area outside Tonganoxie. When the propane tank got low last week, the family called to get a fill. 
 
“When you finally get through to them and order goes through, you think normally they’re here within 24-48 hours, no big deal, we’re going to be fine,” Smith said. 
 
But after five days without help, the tank ran dry.  Even with lots of space heaters, her home dropped to 55 degrees. Making matters worse, electricity went off several hours Sunday and the family’s stuck home in COVID-19 quarantine. 
 
“You just are worried about things like your pipes freezing. Everyone in the house is not feeling their greatest right now so that doesn’t help,” Smith said. 
 
In a statement, propane provider Ferrellgas said: 

“Ferrellgas is working harder than ever at this time to meet the needs of our many valued local customers. We have plenty of propane to serve our customers through the winter and beyond, and we’ve been making deliveries seven days a week. We’re also in the process of hiring additional drivers to further support the local area.”   

Ferrellgas is also asking customers who are not on its automatic delivery program to closely monitor their propane tank percentage and contact Ferrellgas when it is at or near 30%. These record-cold temperatures are prompting many propane users to request deliveries.  

“We need plenty of time, including and especially when roadways may be covered with snow and ice, to make safe deliveries. One thing we’re also asking of Ferrellgas customers is to make sure driveways are clear and that there’s a clear path to the tank for our delivery personnel. Those two things can go a long way in helping to ensure a delivery can be made,” the company went on to say.

After nearly three days on empty, Jessica’s tank is finally filled, but she knows neighbors are still in limbo and may have to wait days or longer for fuel. 
 
“It’s just cold, miserable. Mother Nature can ease up on us anytime,” Smith said. 

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