People struggle to pay heating bills in sub-zero temperatures

Customers are finding gas bills hundreds of dollars higher than usual.
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The brutal winter we're facing is causing more than just road problems. If you haven't opened your heating bill yet, get ready for sticker shock.

We're finding many people's bills are so high, they simply can't pay them.

"It says its 72 in here," said Nikki Smith, looking at her thermostat.

No matter what Smith sets the thermostat at, though, her bill has just kept climbing.

"The total is $450.82," said Smith, reading her gas bill.

With the sub-zero temperatures lately, it's a gamble every time Smith opens the bill.

"It's scary. It's very stressful and it comes down to, 'Okay, what do we pay now? What do we let go' and that one we let go is still in the back haunting us," explained Smith.

Friday, some of last month's gas bill that went unpaid, came back to haunt Smith.

"$242.33 must be paid by the end of today and it is a disconnect notice," the wife and mother of two said, looking at her latest gas bill.

"We've been lucky, we get the bare minimum paid, but it's hard getting to that point, though," she added, realizing that the sub-zero temperatures aren't going anywhere.

Smith and her family aren't alone.

"We are hearing from people who are concerned because they're falling behind on their bill," said Citizens Energy spokesperson Dan Considine.

Considine said while the temperatures are this cold, they won't be disconnecting anyone.

"This kind of weather is just dangerously cold. People cannot be in their home if they don't have heat," he explained.

Considine said payment arrangements and help are there for customers who fall behind.

"The $450.82 cents is not fun, so we won't be able to pay that off until probably summer," said Smith.

Until then, Smith said they'll be insulating their windows and doors with blankets and using a space heater.

"It turns itself off automatically when it gets to a certain temperature," Smith said of the heater.

Then, there's tightening the purse strings for her family of four as best she can.

"It cuts into the grocery money," said Smith of the high gas bills.

Smith has no choice. She can't make spring get here any faster.