Like squirrels caching acorns, we pump gas into underground caverns during warm months in order to have fuel for the coming winter. Every year around April Fool's Day we stop taking natural gas out of storage and start putting it back in. Thanks to a smaller than expected impact from the hurricanes and a warm October, winter arrived this year with a plenitude of gas in storage. But how much is enough? \t The last few weeks have been unseasonably cold, and we?ve had to dip into our stash to keep warm. The week ending on Thanksgiving was the coldest since last January. My forecast indicates that about 60 billion cubic feet of gas were withdrawn from storage. This would leave us with about 3,200 bcf, more than average for the date. But in the winter of 2002-03, we needed more than 2,500 Bcf to see us through the heating season. If this winter is as cold, we would end up with less than 700 bcf. When storage levels dip below 1,000, the market gets nervous and bids the price up. This could happen again this winter. What's more, if gas production in the Gulf of Mexico is slow to come back and the refineries return to normal operations quickly, lower supplies and rebounding demand could make things interesting. The Minerals Management Service reports that Gulf production remains more than 3 bcfd below normal. If that continues and demand returns, we would arrive at the end of March with only 350 bcf left in storage. And if we have a really cold winter . . . So perhaps it?s not surprising that the wholesale price of natural gas to be delivered through March is about $12\/ MMBtu. It seems crazy that a few days of unusually cold or warm weather can drive the price up or down by 10 percent, but traders are doing the same calculations that I am. We won?t know whether we?ve squirreled away enough natural gas until next April Fool's Day.