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Northwest Continues to Grapple with Cold

Northwest Continues to Grapple with Cold

As temperatures rise, concerns continue among the Pacific Northwest utilities hit by record demand and thousands of outages in the wake of a freezing Arctic storm that drove through the region at the beginning of the week. In eastern Washington, a spokesperson for Avista Utilities said the next potential problem is freezing rain that would ice up power lines and cause them to sag or come down from the weight as happened in the western portion of the state.

Farther east in Montana, NorthWestern Energy faced electricity demand (1,547 MW) Tuesday exceeding totals reached the past two summers in 100-degree heat. Temperatures in some places bottomed out at minus 31 degrees, a utility spokesperson told local news media. The combination utility also reported sending out about 275 MMcf/d in the midst of the current cold snap.

To the west, Portland General Electric (PGE) and Puget Sound Energy (PSE) were still coping with outages and near-record demand. Thursday morning PGE still had 40,000 customers needing service restoration, a utility spokesperson said, noting that low temperatures and ice were still an problem in the eastern and Columbia River Gorge parts of its service territory in Oregon.

In the western part of the state of Washington, PSE was coping with the aftermath of Sunday and Monday's record snowfall and low temperatures, and like its counterpart in Portland, was using all of its available work force to cope with the situation. PSE set records Sunday and Monday for natural gas and electricity demand, respectively.

Snow followed by the freezing rain Wednesday caused lines to come down, knocking out power to 125,000 PSE electric customers, and 25,000 remained without power Thursday morning. A utility spokesperson in Bellevue, WA, north of Seattle said the utility expected to have most of those customers restored by the end of the day.

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