The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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February 4, 2014

VIDEO: Meteorologists say area stuck in rut until end of month

Today’s forecast calls for more snow and more cold.

But wasn’t that the forecast last week? And the week before that?

It seems like the winter of 2013-14 has been one of the worst winters on record, with week after week of low temperatures and wintry precipitation.

Well, it has not been that cold or that snowy compared with previous winters. In fact, this winter is closer to the norm. What has happened, weather observers say, is that after two winters that were drier and warmer than normal, a normal winter like this one seems almost unbearable.

“This winter is not even in the top 10 for coldest temperatures,” said Gene Hatch, a climate meteorologist with the National Weather Service forecast office in Springfield.

“This has been a colder than normal winter, but not a record setter.”

Still, this winter has seen plenty of cold and snowy conditions. That has kept students home from school and has driven up the price of propane fuel for heating.

HELP WITH PROPANE

On Monday, Gov. Jay Nixon announced a plan to put $15 million toward helping low-income Missourians cope with rising propane prices. The additional funding would allow low-income people to continue heating their homes even though prices for the fuel have increased to more than $4 per gallon.

“No hard-working Missouri family should have to choose between putting food on the table and staying warm,” Nixon said in a written statement.

U.S. supplies of propane were depleted by a late harvest that increased demand from farmers who use it to dry grain before storage. As lower-than-normal temperatures spread across much of the country, supplies dropped to the lowest level ever during the second week of January.

The additional funds in Nixon’s plan would come from the federal government’s Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. The plan would double the amount each Missouri household can receive for propane assistance.

The governor’s office estimates that 245,000 Missourians rely on propane to heat their homes.

State officials are calling for an investigation into possible price gouging.

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