The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission said Monday that about 19,653 households will enter the winter season without heat-related utility service compared to 15,975 this time last year, and that nearly two-thirds of the customers are in the Philadelphia area.

The PUC's annual Cold Weather Survey said Philadelphia Gas Works reported that 9,049 households that heat with natural gas are without service, the highest number of all utilities. A total of 13,508 or 63 percent of the state's shutoff accounts are in the Philadelphia area.

The PUC encouraged consumers to call their utility first to make arrangements to pay their bill. If they are unable to reach an agreement with the utility, the PUC may be able to provide assistance. The state agency can be reached toll-free at 1-800-692-7380.

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