Frigid, but not quite a record

Puget Sound Energy customers set a record for natural gas consumption for the 24-hour period ending Tuesday morning as the temperatures in Olympia plunged to 6 degrees.

The 791,096 million British thermal units used surpassed the previous record of 785,043 million, set Dec. 20, 2008.

But the 6-degree low was not a record for Dec. 8. The same date in 1972 registered a minus 3 in Olympia, according to National Weather Service records.

The low this morning is expected to be 11 degrees, 1 degree above the record of 10 degrees for the date set Dec. 9, 1972.

Daily low temperatures will slowly begin climbing back toward normal in the days ahead, meteorologist Johnny Burg said, reaching the lower 20s Thursday and Friday, the mid-20s Saturday and the mid-30s by Sunday night.

Puget Sound Energy has enough natural gas, partly the result of a 2008 expansion of an underground storage facility near Chehalis. The Jackson Prairie operation co-owned by PSE can store up to 1.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas, enough to meet the needs of 1.2 million households.

The cold spell did trigger some cuts in natural gas use at the University of Washington, Lakeside Industries in Centralia and the large-scale customers to keep the utility’s overall distribution system stable, utility officials said.

Peak electricity use at 7 p.m. Monday in PSE’s 11-county service territory reached 4,750 megawatts, just shy of the record of 4,906 megawatts set Dec. 15, 2008.

“We encourage customers to use energy wisely and efficiently by keeping homes and businesses at the lowest comfortable temperature,” said PSE executive vice president and chief operating officer Bert Valdman.

John Dodge: 360-754-5444