West Seattle power outage: 11,000 homes, businesses affected at peak; ‘underground equipment’ blamed

November 11, 2012 at 4:37 am | In Utilities, West Seattle news | 85 Comments

(Screengrab from City Light outage map when outage was at its peak, 5:50-ish am)
ORIGINAL REPORT, 4:37 AM: Power’s out at WSB HQ in Upper Fauntleroy and elsewhere in Gatewood and near Lincoln Park, per texts we’ve gotten. Investigating further.

4:44 AM: Not on City Light’s outage map, which only means they haven’t had time to post it yet. We’re getting messages from High Point, too, as well as north Morgan Junction, but WSB’ers in Admiral and Alki say they’re still powered.

4:50 AM: City Light map is updated now. 3265 “customers,” which means homes/businesses.

5:04 AM: The City Light map shows this outage isn’t one contiguous area, and that’s what our spotter crew is finding. Heading north, it’s on in part of Gatewood. On at California/Fauntleroy. But we’ve had reports further north of there.

5:18 AM: City Light has now issued an official news release but does not have an estimated restoration time. Meantime, our crew on the road says the outage zone seems to be shifting – he went past one area in the High Point vicinity that was OK a few minutes ago and now is out.

5:31 AM: Some just got power back – the lights on 35th through Gatewood/High Point are back on but in “flashing” mode.

6 AM: The City Light map just dramatically increased the number of homes/businesses affected to almost 11,000.

6:07 AM: Just got our power back (California/Thistle vicinity). Who’s still out?

6:20 AM: City Light spokesperson Mark Van Oss tells WSB that “underground equipment” caused this. If anybody IS still out, it might be as late as 11 am before it’s back.

6:43 AM: City Light map now shows 1,700+ homes/businesses still out.

7:15 AM: Down to about 700, and City Light says everyone should be back on within a half-hour or so.

8:38 AM: And they are – at least according to the map. P.S. Though the official news releases earlier capped the outage at the original 3,200+ number, SCL’s Van Oss confirms it was indeed up to almost 11,000 for a while: “In attempting to reroute power to restore a portion of customers with another feeder (major power line), that second feeder relayed out. So, a second block of customers was out for about 20 minutes. This would have included Westwood. Your numbers are correct.”

8:53 AM: That’s reflected in the final news release, which specifies a failed underground cable as the cause:

Seattle City Light crews restored service to all customers affected by this morning’s power outage in West Seattle’s Gatewood neighborhood. The outage was due to the failure of an underground power cable.

The outage was first reported at 4:30 a.m., Sunday, November 11, 2012 and affected 3,257 customers. The original boundaries were on the north SW Findlay Street; on the south SW Henderson Street; on the east 28th Avenue SW; and on the west, Puget Sound.

In attempting to reroute power to restore a portion of the original customers with another feeder (major power line), the second feeder relayed out. So, a second block of customers was without power for about ten minutes, including the Westwood neighborhood. At its height, the outages affected approximately 11,000 customers. All customers had their power restored by 7:30 a.m.

As SCL pointed out in an earlier media advisory, “boundaries” are just approximations – not everyone within the specified outage boundaries lost power, and some affected areas are outside the boundaries. The areas shown on their map are more precise – though sometimes time-lagged a bit. P.S. As per comments – there’s a lingering Comcast outage.

85 Comments

  1. City Light’s recorded message: “we’re aware of the outage, no estimated time of repair”…no Seattle fire accident calls nearby that I can see (I.e. no vehicles into power poles) ..didn’t hear a transformer blow….ah we’ll, should be sleeping anyway! Night night

    Comment by Sue in Gatewood — 4:42 am November 11, 2012 #

  2. You guys are amazing! Even the Seattle city light page has no outages listed yet. We are out in Gatewood.

    Comment by Afsi — 4:47 am November 11, 2012 #

  3. One of us will be going out shortly to look at the extent. City Light just updated – 3265 homes and businesses.

    Comment by WSB — 4:49 am November 11, 2012 #

  4. The automated system said the estimated time for power is 11am. I hope it doesn’t take that long!

    Comment by Jennifer Louise — 4:50 am November 11, 2012 #

  5. Settle City Light outage map:

    http://www.seattle.gov/light/sysstat/

    Comment by seattletimebandit — 4:51 am November 11, 2012 #

  6. I saw a couple bright flashes like 3 or 4 seconds apart … Thought it was my neighbors back porch light but it was too bright for that.
    I didn’t really hear anything like an explosion, but did hear something… Then a few minutes later I realized my power was out.
    I’m in Gatewood

    Comment by Flipjack — 4:52 am November 11, 2012 #

  7. Power is out here at the 35/36 hundred block of SW Southern St.

    Comment by Aaron — 4:56 am November 11, 2012 #

  8. westwood has power

    Comment by nick — 4:56 am November 11, 2012 #

  9. Its going to be a long winter….

    Comment by teachergreg — 5:02 am November 11, 2012 #

  10. We’re out in high point

    Comment by Laura — 5:03 am November 11, 2012 #

  11. We are freezing in Gatewood. I can only imagine how blue my toes will be by 11!

    Comment by Travis — 5:09 am November 11, 2012 #

  12. No power on 39th and othello

    Comment by casey — 5:11 am November 11, 2012 #

  13. The map no longer says 11. Restoration time pending. They just throw up an early estimate usually and refine from there.

    Comment by WSB — 5:11 am November 11, 2012 #

  14. Where can I get coffee? I am gonna need a battery backup for my espresso machine.

    Comment by ken — 5:21 am November 11, 2012 #

  15. Lights just went out at 29th and Thistle too!

    Comment by thistle — 5:22 am November 11, 2012 #

  16. Just saw another really bright flash… Not a short flash but like a light turning on for a second and then off very evenly. Weird!
    I’m keeping my blinds open now to see if it occurs again where it comes from.

    Comment by Flipjack — 5:24 am November 11, 2012 #

  17. Had a brief flicker of restored power (~1 sec) a few minutes ago but died out again. Near 37th and Ida.

    Comment by Tucker — 5:26 am November 11, 2012 #

  18. Weird, ours JUST went out in Sunrise Heights and that’s almost an hour after your first report…what the heck is goong on?

    Comment by MB — 5:26 am November 11, 2012 #

  19. Power just went out in my place about 5 minutes ago. I am on Delridge by Westwood Village. Glad I saved my candles. :(

    Comment by E — 5:27 am November 11, 2012 #

  20. Just lost power in the Westwood area

    Comment by Eric — 5:28 am November 11, 2012 #

  21. Power just went out on Delridge and Kenyon.

    Comment by Delridge Chick — 5:29 am November 11, 2012 #

  22. Westwood no power….heard a loud sound woke up to no power :( I hope not long until restored its cold bbbrrr. Thanks wsb for update

    Comment by Ca — 5:29 am November 11, 2012 #

  23. I think just went out on Delridge. Smoke alarms gave a sad beep which woke me up.

    Annnnd never mind, literally right when I clicked “post” it came back on.

    Comment by Paige Mowery — 5:29 am November 11, 2012 #

  24. It’s back on 32nd

    Comment by Joe — 5:30 am November 11, 2012 #

  25. We are in Highland Park. Power went out 15 minutes ago & is back on just now.

    Comment by Leigh — 5:31 am November 11, 2012 #

  26. We are near 35th and Morgan, lights just went out at 5:20 am. Logged on here to report it and saw you guys have been out for a while… Haha, as I type this, power just came back on, at 05:30. Never mind!

    Comment by Cascadianone — 5:31 am November 11, 2012 #

  27. I’m at California and Austin, lights just came back on. Was only down for about 15 minutes-hope it sticks!

    Comment by Lyn — 5:31 am November 11, 2012 #

  28. As soon as I posted, ours came back on, after about 10 minutes of being out.

    Comment by Delridge Chick — 5:31 am November 11, 2012 #

  29. Highland park 16th and Coverdale went out about 15 minutes ago and just came back on.

    Comment by Eric — 5:32 am November 11, 2012 #

  30. Power out at 5:20. In Arbour Heights. Back on just now at 5:30 ??

    Comment by Tobias — 5:32 am November 11, 2012 #

  31. And now we’re back on again.

    Comment by MB — 5:32 am November 11, 2012 #

  32. From here it looked like power was out at least from Roxbury south to 103rd and east/west from 31st to 33rd for about 15 minutes. Just came back.

    Comment by Joe — 5:33 am November 11, 2012 #

  33. I experienced the whole thing while driving home on Delridge just a few minutes ago, traffic lights went out and it was scary. Then I got home and luckily we have power.

    Comment by Jennifer Arlem Molina — 5:37 am November 11, 2012 #

  34. Our power at 34th and Barton went off at around 5:20am and then came back on at 5:30. Very odd.

    Comment by bitofbutter — 5:37 am November 11, 2012 #

  35. No power on 26th and Coverdale.

    Comment by G — 5:39 am November 11, 2012 #

  36. Just got power back in Westwood near 34th & Thistle.

    Comment by Relieved — 5:40 am November 11, 2012 #

  37. Powers still out on lincoln park way…

    Comment by adam — 5:40 am November 11, 2012 #

  38. 35th & Holden was black as pitch for about 7 minutes. Just came back, and only my quarter-side of the street. My computer’s surge protector sounded its alarm and started to hear folk bustle a little panicked downstairs. Once I noticed no street lights were on from my area down a quite a ways and then heard two sirens drive by, I breathed a sigh of relief it wasn’t because I forgot to pay my electric bill.
    Then realized, D’oh! I need to.
    Sigh.

    Thanks for the info! And yes Teachergreg, I agree.
    A long winter indeed. But, Camus taught us that it simply meant inside of us is an invincible summer. :)

    Comment by BrassyMomma — 5:40 am November 11, 2012 #

  39. Sounds like a substatntial systemic problem with the rolling blackouts and the scope of it. That doesn’t bode well for SCL. Meanwhile, aside from the flicker, we’ve been out for nearly an hour and a half.

    Comment by Tucker — 5:41 am November 11, 2012 #

  40. Power’s back on in Westwood

    Comment by Eric — 5:46 am November 11, 2012 #

  41. Lost power at 35th Ave SW & SW Morgan St for about 8 minutes, but then it came back on. Was watching cars at the intersection NOT treating it as a 4 way stop, almost meeting each other in a not so friendly fashion. Hope it doesn’t take until 11am for everyone to get their power back.

    Comment by ~~Hockeywitch~~ — 5:49 am November 11, 2012 #

  42. 35th and Findlay – We have power, but comcast internet is out.

    Comment by Luke — 5:50 am November 11, 2012 #

  43. Power came back on here in Sunrise Heights 10 minutes ago after an approximate 15 minute outage.

    Comment by SunriseHtsGuy — 5:58 am November 11, 2012 #

  44. still off here 39th and Rose. Does the blog never sleep!? Tracy’s like batman!

    Comment by sean — 6:00 am November 11, 2012 #

  45. Starbucks & Thriftway in the dark, but lights north of California & Fauntleroy.

    Comment by SeaChanty51 — 6:03 am November 11, 2012 #

  46. Power just came on at 41st & Monroe in Gatewood.

    Comment by seattletimebandit — 6:07 am November 11, 2012 #

  47. Electricity back on 39th and Holden! Woo hoo!

    Comment by Jennifer Louise — 6:07 am November 11, 2012 #

  48. Power just came back on 35th-39th Holden/Ida block.

    Comment by Tucker — 6:08 am November 11, 2012 #

  49. Power just came back on the 35th-39th Holden/Ida block.

    Comment by Tucker — 6:08 am November 11, 2012 #

  50. Power just came on at California & Portland.

    Comment by MichaelS — 6:09 am November 11, 2012 #

  51. Just added to the story, back on here in California/Thistle vicinity. To Sean: Yes, we were both asleep when this happened – it’s the community-powered awesomeness that makes this go; people started texting almost immediately. We highly encourage that, for anything that might be breaking news, from a car crash blocking traffic to power going out – 206-293-6302, voice or text, 24/7/365. E-mail’s OK too but the text/call gets us anywhere anytime.

    Comment by WSB — 6:09 am November 11, 2012 #

  52. Power on at 6:07 at California and Holden.

    Comment by Pibal — 6:10 am November 11, 2012 #

  53. Power out currently at 37th & Holden (including street lights, of course). Eerily dark, and also reminding me to not forget where the flashlights are! — Jeff

    Update: Back on here at 6:06 am

    Comment by Jeff — 6:11 am November 11, 2012 #

  54. Power out on east side of 5900 block of 42nd. Our neighbors across the street have power. Wait, it just turned on. Woohoo!

    Comment by Jennifer McIntosh — 6:17 am November 11, 2012 #

  55. Just got power in Seaview 6000 block of Fauntleroy. Thank goodness! House was getting very chilly and kiddos were hopping into our bed.

    Comment by Amy — 6:18 am November 11, 2012 #

  56. Back on 44th and Juneau but it was out for 1.5 hours. Happy it’s back on – its cold!!

    Comment by A — 6:23 am November 11, 2012 #

  57. Still out here and looks dark everywhere I look outside. We are near Morgan Junction. Guess I will just get up and start a fire…

    Comment by Machel — 6:30 am November 11, 2012 #

  58. power back on highpoint 6:20 ish

    just got back from the starbucks at the triangle

    Comment by ken — 6:33 am November 11, 2012 #

  59. Power still out on Murray Ave SW area near Lowman Beach

    Comment by Joel — 6:34 am November 11, 2012 #

  60. Power now on at 39 th & Morgan st.- just east of WS Thriftway .

    Comment by Anne — 6:54 am November 11, 2012 #

  61. My power is now back on at 42nd & Graham. (One block north of Thriftway).

    Comment by Mark — 6:54 am November 11, 2012 #

  62. Thanks for the updates. Anybody still out, City Light’s projecting it’ll be back by 7:45.

    Comment by WSB — 7:17 am November 11, 2012 #

  63. We just got power back about 5 or 10 minutes ago.

    Comment by cj — 7:33 am November 11, 2012 #

  64. Near Lowman Beach. Power came on about 5 minutes ago and off since 4:31am.

    Comment by LongTimer WS — 7:34 am November 11, 2012 #

  65. Just woke up to see the clocks blinking. I guess we slept through the outage! Our Comcast is out though. Has anyone heard anything or tried calling them yet?

    Comment by skwash — 7:48 am November 11, 2012 #

  66. We are in Gatewood, near Lowman Beach, one of the last to come back on. Hopefully all are back on now. Thank you West Seattle Blog for your (as always) excellent reporting! I will be interested to find out exactly what happened, and how SCL plans to avoid it in the future. Our neighborhook seems to be the last to come back on in any outage.

    Comment by Shirley — 8:01 am November 11, 2012 #

  67. So, anyone know where the crews are working to repair this? Back when we lived in San Diego, we had an underground failure near our home & crews were about 100 yards from our house for just under 10 hours (over night!) working on it. So loud!!!! Just curious if anyone is dealing with that with this outage…. Glad to hear so many people have their power back already!! Stay warm West Seattle!!

    Comment by EJ — 8:09 am November 11, 2012 #

  68. This event is a good reminder.
    Get ready for Winter now.
    WS can be a VERY isolated peninsula from the rest of essential city services during a significant weather or natural “event”.
    I’m sure WSB has good information within this blog on disaster preparedness? Maybe they can post a link or two?
    Here’s the City of Seattle’s website to get you started:
    http://www.seattle.gov/emergency/
    Anybody else have good resource sites to share??

    STAY WARM !! :-)

    Comment by JMHC — 8:11 am November 11, 2012 #

  69. Preparedness R Us. Archives at http://westseattleblog.com/category/preparedness
    .
    But THE site all must review is http://westseattlebeprepared.org
    .
    For disasters larger than power outages … the really big ones that we hope we’ll never experience … KNOW YOUR HUB. (Find it via that site.)

    Comment by WSB — 8:21 am November 11, 2012 #

  70. Re: outage cause – We will follow up, though I suspect detailed information won’t be available till after the holiday. One thing of note, though I have *no* indication this is or is not related to the “underground equipment” mentioned today … In various parts of the south end, City Light has had an ongoing project to try to extend the life of underground cables by injecting them with silicone. This work was done in Fauntleroy’s Brace Point within the past year or so. I also note via City Light’s website that some NON-underground upgrades are under way in West Seattle … http://www.seattle.gov/light/aboutus/construction/release.asp?RN=140

    Comment by WSB — 8:25 am November 11, 2012 #

  71. My power is back on but my Comcast Internet is out too. Anyone know what’s going on with that?

    Comment by Morgan — 8:41 am November 11, 2012 #

  72. Be sure you call to report it. Sometimes a power outage will knock out their equipment but it’ll need a reboot (or something like that) to get back online. Alternately, YOU might try rebooting (or something like that) – I have heard from people in the past who needed to “clear the modem” to get back on after an outage – it wasn’t automatic … TR

    Comment by WSB — 8:44 am November 11, 2012 #

  73. No wonder we heard the iPhone charger chimes wig out earlier. I thought is was Apple technology gone rogue. Down by Lowman Beach is on!

    Comment by Moco Loco — 8:45 am November 11, 2012 #

  74. Sounds like Comcast is aware. I texted “OUT” to 266278 and received the following response: “There is currently a service outage in your area. We are working to resolve this matter as quickly as possible and apologize for any inconvenience.”

    http://customer.comcast.com/help-and-support/cable-tv/outages-in-your-area

    Comment by skwash — 8:59 am November 11, 2012 #

  75. Power went out in Fauntlee Hills but I slept right through it.

    Comment by Bonnie — 9:15 am November 11, 2012 #

  76. Thanks Tracy for the reporting. I am in Gatewood and woke up immediately when the power went off around 4:15 am. I didn’t have your number handy. I did locate (by headlamp) the City Light number and called them. It was very frustrating to go through their automated system to wind up with a msesage saying that their normal business hours are M-F and to call back then. !!!
    .
    Don’t they have a 24 hour hotline to report outages? I looked out to see blocks and blocks of houses and businesses dark, including traffic signals. I almost called the non-emergency police number to ask them to pass it along. I decided that someone somewhere with tweeting/texting ability would reach you all or the proper folks eventually. But I still would have liked to connected with someone.
    .
    Does anyone know if there is a way to get through to City Light during such an event? ~z
    ,

    Comment by zephyr — 9:20 am November 11, 2012 #

  77. As a small business owner close to the affected area, once again I must thank the West Seattle Blog for their amazing ability to be on top of events that could impact us. Thank you. You are golden!

    Comment by WD — 9:34 am November 11, 2012 #

  78. Ah…THAT’s why the clock on the microwave was flashing! Must have been a short outage in the WWVillage area, though. Lights were on by 6:30 am.

    Comment by LAP — 9:35 am November 11, 2012 #

  79. This is all I have:
    http://www.seattle.gov/light/neighborhoods/nh4_outs.htm
    .
    Since it wasn’t on the map (there is a lag usually), we called to report it too, since we were among the outage-ees. You don’t get a live person – it asks you for a phone number if the billing number isn’t the one you called from.
    .
    I have a media hotline that eventually will reach a live person but if I call them TOO early on in the process, they don’t know anything yet – and before I had to dig up their number, they’d sent a short news release (and have been available online ever since to answer my followups).
    .
    TR

    Comment by WSB — 9:50 am November 11, 2012 #

  80. I called the regular City Light number and got through with no problems. It’s an automated process, but it worked fine for me. The machine knew where I was calling from, and said that they already knew about my outage and they had people on the way.

    Comment by Gatewooder — 10:25 am November 11, 2012 #

  81. Just wanted to confirm that the correct number to call is Seattle City Light’s Outage Hotline (206-684-7400) and select the option for “electrical emergency” – otherwise, you end up with the message suggesting that you call back during business hours. Thanks to WSB for giving me this number as I was fumbling around in the dark when the outage first happened!

    Comment by Jon — 10:38 am November 11, 2012 #

  82. I sure would like to know how an underground electrical cable failed, that is the most reliable way to route power. Moles?

    Comment by Gatewooder — 10:42 am November 11, 2012 #

  83. Thanks, WSB and Jon. I did call the correct number. I did choose the “report an outage” option not “electrical emergency”. I didn’t have a downed powerline, etc., just the outage for the neighborhood. Looking back on it, I can see that would be an “emergency”. I don’t have online access during power failures, since I use a computer and not a smartphone. ~z

    Comment by zephyr — 11:32 am November 11, 2012 #

  84. @Gatewooder: Contrary to common sense, underground cables are not as reliable as the overhead cables. They are subject to faster corrosion, vulnerable to floods and shifting ground. Even squirrels that get into the vaults can cause a power failure.

    Overhead cables are susceptible to wind and sometimes ice. But the cables themselves can handle the corrosion a lot better.

    Comment by DJ Allyn — 12:15 pm November 11, 2012 #

  85. Most likely it is just old Gatewooder. A lot of these systems were installed in the 60s with an expected service life of 40ish years. Really we are just on borrowed time with a lot of our critical infrastructure.

    Comment by Jeff — 12:58 pm November 11, 2012 #

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