Energy prices rose as a winter storm intensified off the East Coast and disrupted life in a wide, multi-state area of the region. Bitter cold coming with the snow pushed natural gas futures up 2.4 percent today to settle at $4.431 per million British thermal units on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the highest close since Dec. 26. That jump is significant since roughly half of U.S. households use gas for heating. Spot wholesale electricity jumped to two-week highs across eastern U.S. grids and spot gas hit records at hubs serving New York and Boston. The storm caused federal offices to close in Washington, while New York’s mayor urged people to stay off the streets. Thousands of flights were grounded and the forecast calls for New York City to receive 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 centimeters) of snow, with the heaviest coming down as workers head home at nightfall, said Lauren Nash, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Upton, New York. Winter storm warnings stretch from the mountains of North Carolina to the coast of New Hampshire. Chris Christie, who was sworn today for a second term as New Jersey’s governor, canceled the inauguration party at Ellis Island. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick postponed tonight’s State of the State address, while Delaware Governor Jack Markell declared a state of emergency.
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