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(WBIR-Newport) A long stretch of frigid days is putting a pinch on propane gas--something millions of Americans rely on to heat their homes.

The shortage of propane in the Midwest and Northeast is now reaching East Tennessee.

About 5,000 customers depend on propane from Jefferson-Cocke County Utility District (JCCUD). Earlier in the week, shipments from their supplier changed from two loads of propane per day to one load every two to three days.

JCCUD General Manager Tommy Bible said they are stocked for now.

"As winter came in, we keep our tanks full. We have 11 30,000-gallon tanks plus this 14,000-gallon that's behind me," Bible said.

They are temporarily being cautious with deliveries.

"On a residential side, we're limiting deliveries to our customers to 125 gallons per customer. Just to make sure we can take care of everybody in our service area," Bible said.

JCCUD's propane cylinder fill station in Newport saw a large amount of customers on Friday.

"It's been very busy today. Been like this since about 7:30 this morning. Usually lined up to the gate back there," JCCUD employee Ben Holt said.

Sevierville Resident John Olds added, "Get propane before the weekend. It's getting kind of cold. This cold weather has been rough on us."

Bible is concerned about the sharply rising price of propane.

JCCUD, on average, pays under $2 per gallon for wholesale propane. The price has increased to $2.73.

"We have never seen them raise, go up 50% within a week on the propane side. Certainly we've seen high prices before, as far as spiking and they've been a little bit higher than where they are right now, but this came so quickly," he said.

JCCUD is able to keep its same rates for now.

"Fortunately we had some gas prices that were locked in before the winter started so we've been able to blend this higher price of gas with the lower price of gas. That's why we have not raised our costs," Bible said.

JCCUD will have to reevaluate prices if the higher rates persist.

According to Bible, wet crops in the fall contributed to the propane shortage. Farmers burned more of it than normal to dry their crops.

He does not believe JCCUD customers need to worry about a long-term shortage.

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