After nearly of bracing for a week of sub-freezing weather – a rarity for south Louisiana – Iberville Parish residents should now brace themselves for higher utility bills.

Parish President Mitchell Ourso says that means bills for gas, electricity and water are likely to be higher for most of the parish’s residents.

He said he expect to hear a lot of complaints from parish residents along the lines of, “I can’t believe my gas bill is this high,” but the cold weather led to most of the parish’s utility customers to run their heaters, whether gas or electric, more than usual.

“We’re going to get similar complaints about water bills that are higher than normal,” Ourso said, since many residents have allowed their faucets to trickle water during the icy weather.

Uninsulated pipes that run to closed faucets are filled with water and when water freezes, it expands. That expansion is what causes those pipes to burst.

Cracked or busted pipes make for expensive repairs – any plumber or homeowner who has dealt with broken pipes after a hard freeze will confirm that – while allowing water to trickle from the pipes will usually keep the water from freezing and protect the pipes.

It also means an increase in water usage, sometimes a dramatic increase. Ourso said he expects the parish’s utility department to receive an abnormally high number of calls from customers questioning the amount of their water bills.

“I have to deal with these consequences and so will the utility department,” he continued, referring to the flurry of phone calls he expects will be directed at both.

“Everybody’s been running their water and everybody’s been burning up their natural gas for heat but in 30 days, when they get their bills, they’re going to be say, ‘Oh, my gosh. There’s no way I could’ve done that. There’s no way my utility bills should be that high,’” Ourso said.

“The customer is always right, the old saying goes, but not in this case and that’s what we’re going to be dealing with,” he continued. “Not all of them will call, but there will be plenty that will.”

“The records reflect the usage,” Ourso said. “If you look at your water bill and for the last 10, 12 months it’s been $11, $12 and this month, it’s jumped up to $35 for January, well, that’s the reason.”

“While you would thank the maintenance and operation of those systems would be the hard part, it’s not,” he said. “Now, when we send out those bills for the higher usage, that’s going to be the hardest part,” he said.