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The almost record-breaking cold right before Christmas did bring records in Okanogan County – for power usage.

Our friends at the Methow Valley News report that on Thursday December 22, the temperature near Winthrop fell to 26 below zero — that didn’t break the record set in 1983 at 27 below, according to the National Weather Service in Spokane. On Wednesday, the 21st, it was 22 below zero in Winthrop, also one degree short of the 1983 record.

But power usage for both the Okanogan County Public Utility District and Okanogan County Electric Co-operative (OCEC) did break records, and by large margins. On Wednesday, peak usage for PUD customers hit 185 megawatts, breaking the previous record of 181. And on Thursday, peak usage hit 194 megawatts, “blowing it out of the water,” as PUD Spokesperson Sheila Corson put it. On both days, those were sustained peaks that lasted several hours, she said.

Okanogan County Electric Co-operative customers also exceeded records for electricity use by almost 15% on both on Wednesday and Thursday. And those highs broke the record set just last December, when the cooperative recorded an increase of 10% to 15% over previous use, according to General Manager Greg Mendonca.

On that frigid Thursday morning, everyone served by the Winthrop substation near the cooperative's headquarters experienced long-duration blinks in power over a five-hour period starting around 5 a.m.

Ultra-high power usage overloaded the system, causing the breakers at the substation to open up for about 30 seconds at a time to protect the equipment before resetting. The outages affected 80% to 90% of OCEC customers.

And our thanks again to the Methow Valley News, you can read more about this at methowvalleynews-dot-com.

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