March of 2019 opened with a deep chill across Cascadia. Arctic air poured south, jacking up energy consumption and straining energy supplies in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. It conjured a “perfect” storm for the region’s electricity grid.
As temperatures plummeted, Cascadia’s hydropower reservoirs sat at record lows following weak fall rains and an exceptionally cold winter. Mechanical trouble had halved output from the Centralia, Washington, coal-fired power plant — the largest generator between Seattle and Portland. A low-pressure weather system was hampering Cascadia’s wind farms. And maintenance work on lines in Los Angeles limited the amount of power that could flow north.