Published: Dec 15, 2010 5:52 AM EST
Updated: Dec 15, 2010 2:52 AM EST

LEE COUNTY, Fla. - It was a chilly wakeup call for thousands in Lee County.

"I got up and turned the coffee pot on, and it magically got done just as the power went off," Joann Housel of North Fort Myers said.

Housel spent the morning in layers - 4 to be exact - awaiting the return of her heat. "It got very cold in here. These mobile homes are not the best insulated," Housel said.

She was one of about 10,000 LCEC customers shivering without power Tuesday morning. LCEC is now analyzing whether it was equipment error or simply high usage.  This December's peak of 795 megawatts set today is substantially higher than the past two years. It was 549 in Dec. 2009, and 509 in Dec. 2008.

"It is unique because you would think in Florida we would be summer-peaking, but we are a winter-peaking utility," Karen Ryan, LCEC Spokesperson said.

Usage slightly rises in the summer months averaging around 790, but it doesn't come close to January and February.

"in January, that's when we hit our all-time peak with about 1,100 megawatts," Ryan said, "and if you compare that to this morning, we had a peak of 795 megawatts."

The real test for power companies will come with arrival of colder temperatures and snowbirds seeking heat, so people like Joann Housel won't be left in the cold.
"We've been performing routine maintenance on our systems, making sure vegetation has been trimmed, and just making sure everything on the system is in order so that when we do reach a peak load, our system is able to handle it," Ryan said.