Helium Shortage May Leave Valentine's Day Flat for Some

February 8, 2007 - Posted at 7:45 p.m. CST

JONESBORO, AR -- The second-most abundant element in the universe is suddenly getting harder and harder to find. Two events caused an unexpected but significant decline in helium production: regularly scheduled maintenance at some U.S. facilities and launch delays at forthcoming plants in Algeria and Qatar.

Party stores and florist shops grounded in the balloon business are caught in a helium shortage gripping suppliers across the country...and that might mean you might not be able to make your sweetie float this Valentine's Day.

"People like balloons, they're fun, they're frisky, they're flirty," said Posey Peddler owner Bridgette Arnold. And the helium filling them is also in high demand.  A national shortage is leaving some retailers flat this Valentine's Day.

"I received notice on August 22nd that there would be a helium shortage worldwide and so at that time, I started planning and thinking about it and paying attention to it a lot and not letting my reserves run way down," said Arnold.

The Posey Peddler in Jonesboro uses about a tank of helium a month...and so far, they haven't had to raise their balloon prices to keep up with the supply costs.

"We have managed to always have helium on hand.  There were several times when we thought we were going to completely run out, but we managed to acquire some," said Arnold.

Medical groups and hospitals are currently getting first dibs on helium supplies...but some of the largest consumers groups are welders.