‘Unprecedented’ winter storms leave Mississippians facing steep increase in power bills, state agency working on relief plan


STARKVILLE, Miss. (WCBI) – Over 8,000 Mississippians were still without power Tuesday after the brutal winter storms the week before.

For those who do have their electricity, the cold weather is expected to deal a final blow to their bank accounts.

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“This is unprecedented,” said North District Commissioner for Mississippi Public Service Brandon Presley. “We have a pandemic going on and a winter storm that had some of the coldest temperatures we’ve seen in a long, long time.”

As residents across Mississippi finish thawing out after a week of ice and snow, the price of staying warm will almost certainly be a steep increase in their next power and gas bills.

“Mississippians could not just turn their heating off last week and hope to survive through [the cold],” Presley said.

With temperatures in the Golden Triangle dropping into the single digits during the week of February 14, plenty of households cranked the thermostat all the way up.

“If you have your thermostat on 68 (degrees Fahrenheit) and the outside temperature’s 68, it’s not going to run that much,” Presley said. “If you’re thermostat’s on 68 and the outside temperature is 5, it takes a lot more electricity to power that heat in your home.”

Presley says the bills in Mississippi won’t be quite as high as they are in Texas.

“We’re not going to see anything in our state like you’ve seen in Texas, where people are getting power bills for $20,000,” he said. But there’s no doubt there’s going to be some increase.”

And that increase can still be enough to put a financial strain on households, especially those already experiencing financial trouble.

“Families are struggling. Businesses are struggling,” Presley said. “They were struggling before the winter storm hit because of the pandemic. They’re struggling now.”

Now the Public Service Commission says it is looking for any and every solution. Those include the low-income home energy assistance program and the internal donation programs run by electric cooperatives and many for-profit companies.

Presley says the Public Service Commission will also be comparing the costs of this storm against a typical February weather event to find ways to spread out the increased cost and soften the blow for Mississippi residents.

“How do we spread that out over a period of time so that, instead of seeing a $25 increase on their bill, they see a $10 increase or a $5 increase and you see that for a few months until that’s taken care of,” he said.

Presley says they are still very early in this process but said he already had a meeting with some natural gas companies scheduled for Tuesday afternoon. The Public Service Commission has a page on their website listing resources for those needing help with bill payments. Click here for the link.