Cruel summer: Extreme weather events impact propane marketers year-round

September 25, 2023 By    
Photo: shootthebreeze/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Photo: shootthebreeze/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Smoke from Canadian wildfires blanketed parts of the U.S., clouding the horizon and leaving an unpleasant smell that reminded us about the continued burn north of the border.

Shocking scenes from Maui, where more fires, fueled by hurricane force winds, raged out of control, turning homes and buildings on this picturesque Hawaiian island to utter devastation.

Hurricane Hilary targeted Southern California, weakening to a tropical storm before making landfall but still leaving parts of the state under floodwaters and residents wondering if such a storm really hit this close to home. The National Hurricane Center issued its first tropical storm watch (later changed to a warning) for parts of Southern California as the system approached the coast. It remained a tropical storm as it crossed into SoCal – the first to do so since Nora in 1997, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The cool Pacific Ocean waters usually prevent these storms from maintaining their strength.

At nearly the same time, a 5.1-magnitude earthquake shook this part of the state, with the hashtag “#hurriquake” trending on social media. Meanwhile, several wildfires burned at the other end of the state.

And as we went to press, Florida was bracing for its first major hurricane of the season, with Idalia strengthening to a Category 4 in the warm Gulf waters. We talked to one propane marketer who was out anchoring tanks and filling those primed to fuel generators.

It’s been a summer of weather and natural disasters, to say the least, and here we are in September, beginning to think about the winter heating season.

Fortunately for the industry, it appears we’re headed into fall and winter in good shape, with U.S. propane inventory building toward 100 million barrels and the PADDs near or above their five-year averages. We’ve got the industry talking heating season preparations in our 2023-24 winter preview.

But the extreme weather and disasters of these past several months are still top of mind, widening the scope of our industry to more than the snow and ice between October and March. These weather events are year-round occurrences that have the potential to seriously impact propane marketers and their customers. Our insurance market focus serves as a timely package of information for your business. Learn more about how insurance contributes to safety here.

What transpired

In California, Rob Scott, the Western Propane Gas Association’s (WPGA) safety consultant, engaged with propane marketers and first responders about emergency service preparations ahead of the storm. Some of the biggest impacts came in the state’s high desert communities, which were inundated by flooding. Tens of thousands of residents lost power.

“We do anticipate marketers will begin getting calls about tanks or lines in the next couple of weeks as folks begin cleanup and working through the mud,” Colin Sueyres, president and CEO of the WPGA, shared with LP Gas following the storm.

The situation in Maui was dire amid the deadly wildfires, but Hawaii Gas worked “non-stop to maintain propane supply levels for first responders and authorities using generators to power equipment for critical operations, laundry facilities, kitchens preparing food for those in need and at hotels across the island housing displaced residents,” Kendall Horner, the vice president of strategy and new markets, shared with LP Gas.

It’s hard for anyone to prepare for what transpired in Maui. But the Propane Education & Research Council and the Canadian Propane Association (CPA) offer detailed safety information to help your customers before, during and after severe weather events and other disasters. The CPA calls them “tips to stay safe through Canadian climate threats and disasters.” Propane marketers can share these tips on their websites or through other customer communications.

The National Propane Gas Association also reminds marketers to plan with their suppliers for supply disruptions, infrastructure issues and high-demand scenarios – good advice for any time of the year.

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About the Author:

Brian Richesson is the editor in chief of LP Gas Magazine. Contact him at or 216-706-3748.

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