Nightly News   |  January 27, 2014

Heating Bills Soar as Temperatures Plummet

In Chicago, and across much of the Midwest, several days of sub-zero temperatures have taken their toll. And on Tuesday, a number of southern cities will be feeling the chill as well.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> good evening, a state of emergency has been declared in the city of new orleans , schools and government buildings will be closed tomorrow and it is not hurricane season . instead, this is about a big winter storm , and from new orleans right on up the coastline, there are watches and warnings posted tonight in a number of southern cities that are not equipped to deal with the snow and ice in this storm. 800 events have been cancelled. the hall mark of this winter thus far has been the reach of winter so far to the south. and up north where schools will also be closed tomorrow from pittsburgh north to st. paul, it has been a costly winter for those just trying to stay warm at home. we have both north and south covered tonight, first, john yang in chicago .

>> reporter: good evening, chicago 's temperature peaked at six, at midnight, it has been falling ever since. right now it is two below here in chicago , on our way down to a forecast low of 11 below.

>> we've just about had enough of this weather.

>> reporter: already, chicago has had 16 days of sub zero temperatures, more than double the average. and it is much the same across the midwest . in wisconsin, a rare glimpse of nature's beauty. for the first time in five years the ice is thick enough for visitors to safely visit lake superior 's sea caves . on lake michigan , the ice is a hazard, so the workers are hard at work. the temperatures soar.

>> they need to know they will be paying more than last winter.

>> reporter: hardest hit, the 63 million users of natural gas and propane. natural gas prices have hit three and a half year highs, despite a glutton north dakota that is being burned off because pipelines can't keep up. nationwide, they estimate a bill of $65 million, 10% more than last year, in the northeast, record cold means more higher bills, a jump of up to 17%, for the propane users in the midwest , a bigger jump, an average bill of $16, up 23%. nearly two dozen states, most of them in the midwest have declared propane emergencies.

>> in the worse case scenario, it would allow us to call out the national guard to provide direct assistance.

>> industry officials blame the shortage on several factors, including shippers giving priority to natural gas . so now propane is being shipped to plants in texas, all the way to the upper midwest . and claims of price gouging are happening.

>> we would want to have them investigated.

>> reporter: but you for now, the utility companies are asking customers to conserve.

>> they asked us to turn down our thermostat at about 12:01 a.m .

>> reporter: with more frigid temperatures tomorrow, schools, universities and even local governments tomorrow will be closed across the region. bria brian?

>> john yang and a cold night in chicago , thank you,