Forecasters say much colder weather will wash over Iowa late tomorrow and air conditioners will be switched off as furnaces are turned on. Temperatures are expected to plummet from highs today in the 70s and 80s to lows Saturday night in the 30s.

Bruce McDowell, spokesman for the American Gas Association, says Iowans who heat their homes with natural gas can expect to see a moderate price hike in the season ahead. “Really not much of a change from last year,” McDowell says. “Slight increase in prices and colder temperatures. We’re guessing around a 5% or so increase in total bills.”

That estimate is taking into account shutdowns due to hurricanes, snowstorms and other severe weather. McDowell says Iowans shouldn’t have to worry about any natural gas shortages. “Supplies are abundant,” McDowell says. “Our storage is nearly full. We’ve got a lot of gas ready to come on the market. If prices go up a little bit more, that gas will be flowing in.”

He says the predicted five-percent price hike for natural gas over the season ahead can essentially be attributed to two issues — the forecast for a harsher winter ahead and higher transportation costs. “Half of the jump is because it’s going to be a little colder,” McDowell says. “The other half is because those are the costs that are incurred when you take gas from the production area to the utility and then from the utility to the customer, those all have costs.”

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates 67-percent of Iowans use natural gas to heat their homes, 15-percent use electricity, 14-percent use propane, and the rest use wood or fuel oil.