The recent cold snap might make residents cringe when they get their electricity bill for the month, but cranking up the heat isn’t overloading Umatilla Electric Cooperative’s system.

Most utilities are at their peak in the winter, member services administrator Steve Meyers said, but Hermiston’s agricultural roots means that UEC’s system reaches its peak loads during irrigation season in June, July and August.

Despite an unusually cold and snowy winter (December was an average of 5 degrees colder than usual in Eastern Oregon), Meyers said so far the system has not experienced any widespread outages.

He said one reason for that is that over the last three years UEC has worked to rebuild portions of its Weston Mountain distribution system to better withstand snow, wind and other weather events.

The Red Cross recommends everyone take steps to make sure that if there is a power outage during extremely cold weather, they are prepared. Recommendations include keeping enough non-perishable food and water (a gallon per person per day) for everyone in the house to survive on for three days, plus flashlights, extra batteries, heavy blankets, a radio and extra cell phone battery. If the power is out for long residents should run water through their pipes to keep them from freezing.

People should never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other device that uses gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal inside their home, garage or other enclosed area where poisonous carbon monoxide will collect.

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