Frigid Bay Area weather takes deadly turn

Pacific Gas and Electric also says demand for gas is breaking records. People are heating their homes higher and longer to deal with the cold weather.

PG&E is monitoring gas inventory and making sure it has enough to keep everybody warm. That's no small task right now as demand has more than doubled since last week, breaking the most recent record from 1998.

"We rely heavily on our storage fields where we have gas that's been stored in the ground during the summer months, where demand on the system is lower. And then we're able to withdraw it when demands get higher in periods like this," said PG&E Senior Director of Gas Operations Mel Christopher.

For now, the price should stay stable with supplies bought in the summertime when prices are lower. But natural gas is a commodity and eventually supply and demand could drive up the price paid by the public utility. For the time being, the increase on people's bill will simply depend on how much more they are using.

In this kind of weather, solar energy can really pay off. In the North Bay, the West Sonoma County School District made a $5.2 million investment in solar panels, for an estimated power bill savings of $250,000 a year; paying for itself in 20 years.

"Assuming that energy rates won't go up at all, I don't think that's a good assumption. I think energy costs are going to go up over those 20 years. And we're going to save, the payoff will be way shorter than 20 years," said Superintendent Keller McDonald.

For those without solar, there's always conservation, and an extra blanket.

Cold weather deaths

Six deaths are now being attributed to the cold weather in the Bay Area; four last week in Santa Clara County alone. The cold snap has likely claimed another life. The body of known homeless man was discovered at 22280 Foothill Boulevard in Hayward.

A passerby made the grim early morning discovery. Police were called.

"When they arrived, they discovered a 50-year-old male wearing only a hooded sweatshirt and shorts," said Sgt. Ken Forkus of the Hayward Police Department.

Police believe he may have died from exposure to the brutal cold. That's why outreach groups are doing all they can to get people off the streets and into warm shelters.

"This facility and at the Sunnyvale armory, we are open all day. So, that means people can come, or they can just stay and keep out of the cold since it really isn't warming up during the day," Jenny Niklaus of EHC LifeBuilders.

EHC LifeBuilders has identified dozens of homeless camps around San Jose. The goal is to get people to take shelter from the cold. Pets are being allowed in.

But others are braving the cold, including a man, his wife and teenage son. Most of the family's belongings are not allowed inside shelters. For them, keeping warm in the elements is a challenge every night.

"We kind of stay warm at night as long as you don't move, you lay down and you cover up, and don't move," said the man.

More frigid weather is on the way.

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