Helium shortages are weighing heavy in Oregon this summer.
Helium is a natural gas that comes out of the ground. It's been in short supply since May. That's when pipeline problems and plant maintenance slowed production nationwide.
Jim Ross, quality control manager at major Oregon helium distributor Norco, said that Norco’s supply is only half of what it was last year. Distributors like him have have cut the helium they’ll sell to party stores, putting medical and industrial needs first.
Helium won't last forever, Ross said. "There is just a finite amount of it, it is not something you can make. Once it is used, it’s gone."
That's hard for Ron Pitt to swallow. He owns Balloons on Broadway in Portland. Pitt has only received a third of his regular supply of helium this year. He said he's avoided raising prices until now, but may not be able to hold out much longer.
"There will reach a point were everybody is scrambling for what little is available that prices are going to go up," Pitt said.
Helium production is expected to increase within the next few months. That will reduce some short term demand, but in the long term prices are expected to keep rising.