From extreme shiver to sticker shock.
Power bills from a bone-chilling January are starting to come in. It's hitting many people hard, especially those in need.
Mmah Sylla just found out how high hers was. Sylla lives in East Ridge and opened her bill to find out she owes $289 for January.
This afternoon, she paid $150 of that. Her family knew this would squeeze her budget.
Sylla said, "It's real high. I called my sister. I say please help me out. That way, they don't cut my lights."
During the lunch hour, several customers came to EPB to pay December bills and bracing for January. Some of them, like Jimmy Bush, went to customer service to extend payments. Bush's December bill was $204.
His only source of income is disability, he's bracing for an even higher January bill. "I really don't know, it's rough right now," Bush said.
It's rough for a good reason. Five days dipped down to single digits in January. That month turned out to be about 30 percent colder than normal.
In fact, EPB saw its highest usage ever on one day. On January 7th, the first single digit day, a peak load topped out at 1,327 megawatts.
EPB's public relations coordinator John Pless noted, "And that shattered the old record book in August of 2007."
And it's hitting everyone hard. The average power bill in January of last year - $145. This January - $173
This afternoon, Rosetta Johnson, who lives off of Social Security, came to EPB to pay part of her December and January bills.
She's staring at a $326 dollar bill. "It's a kick, truly a kick in the behind, but you gotta have lights and heat," Johnson said.
But there's help for her and others.
Pless explained, "We can make what are promise to pay payments. And that is where people can try to make arrangments where they spread that higher cost over a couple of months. So give us a call and we'll be more than happy to work with people."
And you can obviously help yourself, by lowering your thermostat. Also, one key money saver -- replace those nasty air filters and use a higher quality one if possible. That will cut down on particulates in the air and the strain they put on HVAC systems.
EPB is also pushing its voluntary "Power Share" program. That's where you give $1 a month on your bill to go for those who need it more.
Pless noted for every degree you lower your thermostat, you should save 3 to 5 percent on your power bill.
It's also advised to drop your thermostat to 60 degrees when you leave for work or school if you want to lower your overall energy bill.by John Madewell