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Chilling forecast for 2013 winter

Da da da da, da da da da daaaa… Remember the audio lead-in to the old Dragnet television show?

Maybe not if you were born in 1970 or later, but it appears we’re in for a bad winter.

It may be a winter of discontent, and the U.S. Energy Department and the Farmer’s Almanac agree we’re in for a rough one, with ever-rising heating costs and predictions of cold and snow. 

The government forecast last week most households are going to pay more for heat this winter, with heating oil users paying near-record prices to stay warm.

Prices for natural gas, electricity and propane should be higher, and that means more than 90 percent of American homes will see higher heating expenses.

According to the government — and the government is always right, so some people say — natural gas users will see the biggest increase percentage-wise in the dollars it takes to heat their homes this winter, rising to an average of $679, according to the Energy Department.

The winter heating season runs from October through March, and those costs are 13 percent higher than a year ago but still 4 percent below the average for the past five winters.

Approximately 38 percent of American homes heat with electricity, and they will pay about 2 percent more this winter than last, and average heating oil bills should drop 2 percent, according to the Energy Department.

However, those consumers still will pay an average of $2,046 for the heating season, the second highest on record, and industry analysts warn of a possible spike in heating oil prices due to high demand for similar fuels such as jet fuel and diesel, and because of low inventories worldwide.

Natural gas should average $11 per thousand cubic feet this winter, $1.33 more than last year but below the nearly $13 per thousand cubic feet that homeowners paid in the winter of 2008-2009.

Many meteorologists are predicting a slightly cooler winter than the past couple of years, but keep in mind the past two winters in Southern Virginia have not been that bad compared to the snowy and colder ones the two years before then.

Now, look at what the Farmer’s Almanac predicts for this winter, and hold your breath, the mid-Atlantic, including Virginia, will be “cold, wet and blanketed in white.”

The Southeast will be chilly and wet all winter, and Texas and other Southern states will experience frost and above-average dampness, according to the Almanac.

Illinois and surrounding states will have biting cold and snow, the Midwest will see piercing cold with normal snowfall, and the Pacific Northwest will see a dry and chilly year.

The only “good” region, the Almanac predicts, is California, Nevada and Arizona, which will see a season of cool weather with near-normal precipitation.

That’s not exactly a comforting thought, although I do have flannel bedsheets and a brand new comforter at my disposal.

I thought I was being smart in investing in new vinyl windows, an infrared heater and gas logs in an effort to use as little fuel oil as possible this coming winter, so I guess I’m covered. 

Hunker down, everyone, break out the long johns and oil your sleds.