North Central Washington's recent bout of frigid weather has broken more than just record low temperatures.

Over the weekend, the Chelan County Public Utility District (PUD) established a new record high for total energy consumption.

"On Saturday at around eight a.m., Chelan County used five-hundred-eighty-three megawatts of electricity," says PUD spokesperson, Rachel Hansen. "That was at a time when the temperature was about negative nine degrees at Pangborn (Memorial Airport). Our previous record was on December 22, two years ago, at five-hundred-fifty-three megawatts when temperatures got down to negative two degrees."

By contrast, the highest recorded energy usage by the PUD during the summer of 2023 was 282 megawatts on Aug. 15, when temperatures hit a scorching 104 degrees outside.

Hansen says heating the region's homes during the winter months requires a lot more power than it does to keep them cool in the summertime.

"As you can imagine, the equipment is working a lot harder to keep everyone's homes warm. Our system is designed to operate well under sustained temperatures of about zero degrees. But when it gets below zero, that's when we start to see some stress on our system."

The record consumption of megawatts contributed to four separate power outages affecting a total of around 2,000 utility customers in the county on Saturday. The largest outage was in the South Shore and Manson areas of Lake Chelan where over 1,300 homes were without electrical service for over 19 hours.

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