Editorial deadlines create challenges when covering breaking news.

There are times when the production requirements of a monthly magazine make me miss my days as a newspaper reporter.

It's nice to not have constant deadline pressure of a newspaper or a work schedule that often includes night city council meetings, but the fact our stories have to be prepared so far in advance makes me jealous of publications that can get news out while it's still timely.

I was reminded of this when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and the surrounding Gulf Coast. News channels on cable TV can offer 24-hour reports, and daily newspapers and even weekly publications can report on the events while they're still unfolding.

But for monthly publications like Snips, most articles are prepared several weeks in advance, sometimes longer. Even this editorial is about a month old by the time you see it. We wanted to include some news of the effect Katrina was having on contractors in the region, but were limited by our production deadlines. News of affected HVAC and sheet metal contractors was hard to get, and industry associations like the Air Conditioning Contractors of America were just putting their aid plans together.

Timing

If you read this column regularly, you probably noticed that I wrote about what some of the groups were doing to help Katrina victims last month. But just after I finished October's column, Hurricane Rita hit, causing more destruction and making my column, which did not mention Rita, seem even more out of date.

So please forgive us if you're wondering why we didn't have more news about contractors' involvement in recovery efforts. Hopefully, you noticed this month's issue had several more news items about what groups are doing to help. We'll have even more in future issues.

We'd also like to hear from contractors who work and live in the storm-ravaged regions on how the storms affected their businesses. I'm sure some lost everything and are hopefully rebuilding. For those whose businesses were outside of the hardest hit areas, perhaps they're being called on to repair and replace damaged HVAC systems.

Contact me at Snips magazine, BNP Media, 2401 W. Big Beaver Road, Suite 700, Troy, MI 48084. Please include your title and contact info. We may contact some of you for a story or run some of the letters on this editorial page.

A side effect of the hurricanes this year is quick run-ups in the price of gasoline and natural gas. We covered the gasoline spikes in July's Snips (before the hurricanes sent prices even higher in much of the country). However, natural gas could be an even bigger shock to many Americans' pocketbooks. Experts are predicting the Midwest, which I can attest has plenty of cold winters, will see gas prices shoot up 50 percent or more in the next few months.

The shock of still-higher heating bills after several years of double-digit increases could mean more homeowners are finally ready to upgrade to a higher-efficiency furnace. If contractors can explain how much money they'll save immediately and in the future, it could be a very busy - and profitable - season.

And lastly, we're another month closer to the January deadline for the new 13 seasonal energy-efficiency rating. I'm seeing more columns in mainstream papers and magazines explaining the change, and even heard an interview with an HVAC contractor on the radio the other day.

I predict once the change takes effect and existing stocks of 10- and 12-SEER units run out, we'll be hearing about a lot of homeowners who say they were caught "off-guard" by the "sudden" change.