West Seattle, Washington
9:55 PM: Thanks to those who just messaged to let us know about a power outage on Charlestown Hill. The Seattle City Light map shows 43 customers out as of just after 9 pm, no cause yet, restoration estimated by 3 am (but remember, it might be sooner … or later). Let us know if you see an SCL truck in the area – that’s usually the main clue about the outage’s origin.
10:07 PM: The SCL map has updated to blame this outage on unspecified “equipment failure.”
5:52 AM: Still out, the map says, now estimating restoration is still a few hours away.
12:01 PM: The power is finally back after 14+ hours. We asked City Light’s Scott Thomsen about the cause and why it took so long to fix. His reply:
The outage you asked about was caused by the failure of a piece of equipment called a limiter. A limiter limits the amount of current flow to protect equipment from power surges.
When it blew, the surge that was then allowed damaged an underground cable, which had to be repaired. Finding the exact damage spot on an underground cable can be challenging, sometimes involving digging up different spots to check its condition. This one did take a long time to find the damage and repair it.
First report from last night’s quarterly Morgan Community Association meeting is one of interest no matter what neighborhood you’re in: It’s the first community-council briefing we’ve seen in this area since Seattle City Light started switching over to automated meters. The map above shows which parts of West Seattle are scheduled for installation next year – according to the online schedule, the utility expects to have all installations citywide due by the end of 2018.
SCL’s Scott Thomsen spoke to MoCA last night, saying that the new meters will be uploading your power-use information to SCL six times a day. They’re replacing meters that are in some cases older than half a century. He described the attributes as including “first off, you’re going to get more accurate billing.” No more “estimated reads” when they can’t get a meter reading to your house, for whatever reason, leading to an inaccurate bill and maybe a big catch-up bill later. Then, “on a day like today with a storm coming in,” instead of reporting a power outage, “the meter will tell us that you are out,” and that will get crews on the road quicker to fix them. Also: “What we’re talking about is a change in our relationship with you, our customers, to put more power in your hands to control energy costs,” since you’ll also have access to details of how much you’re using.
Questions included whether the existing meter’s base will accommodate the new meter; Thomsen says yes, but if something goes wrong while they are installing it, or they need to fix something with the base, they will take the position that it’s their responsibility, though technically property owners are accountable for providing the base that holds the meter.
How will you know exactly when you’re due for installation? Thomsen says you’ll get three notifications before they come to install – a letter, a postcard, an automated phone call, starting weeks ahead of time. The installer will come knock on your door so that if you’re home working on something, you’ll have an opportunity to save it before the one-minute power outage that’ll be required for the switch over. You don’t have to be home for the installation. Other questions? Check out SCL’s page for the automated-meter project.
Though the weather’s been relatively calm otherwise, Friday’s breeziness might have reminded you that windstorm season is getting closer. And with – sometimes without – wind, comes power trouble. That’s why Seattle City Light invited media crews to its SODO yard (the one next to the West Seattle Bridge on 4th Avenue South) today. The message was twofold: City Light is working to upgrade technology to shorten outages – and urges you to be ready for them. Here’s spokesperson Scott Thomsen:
The briefing included an explanation of what some describe as “transformer explosions” – they are actually fuses that blow protectively:
When a tree falls into power lines, or heavy ice and snow weigh down branches that then cross two or more power lines, it creates a short circuit. The resulting power surge that could damage equipment. Utilities have circuit breakers and fuses in place to protect equipment, such as the transformers that reduce the voltage of electricity from the distribution grid to the service level voltage for your home or business. Those breakers open and fuses blow to isolate damage and protect other equipment, which reduces the likelihood of prolonged power outages for entire neighborhoods.
Once power is out, crews have to both fix the problem and route power around it. New technology is being tested that will automatically handle the latter. In the meantime, SCL continues to take preventive measures such as tree-trimming and vegetation-clearing along 600 miles of power lines every year.
Though SCL is also starting to install automated meters that will give the system a better idea of who’s out and where, they still ask you to call when the power goes out – 206-684-3000 – keep that number in your phone. And check out these preparedness checklists – before the weather gets into the potential-outage zone.
4:27 PM: Thanks to the texter who just mentioned that some residents along Harbor and Alki Avenues in the Duwamish Head area have been without power since midday. The Seattle City Light map says 91 customers – no businesses in that area, so the number would all be residences – are out, and currently estimates restoration by early evening. “Equipment failure” is blamed.
6:19 PM: City Light map says everyone’s back on. (If you’re NOT – be sure to call SCL at 206-684-3000 to be sure they know!)
ADDED MONDAY MIDDAY: While at an unrelated City Light media event today, we asked spokesperson Scott Thomsen for further info about this outage’s cause. He tells us, “It was caused by a failed lightning arrester.” (Don’t know what that is? Here’s an explanation.)
7:54 AM: Thanks for the text – the traffic signal at 35th and Alaska is out. It’s because of a planned power outage in the area, which Kevin had messaged us about minutes earlier. The Seattle City Light map says 134 homes/businesses in the area are without power for “planned work” and expect they’ll have power restored by about 10:30 am. While the signal’s out, meantime, remember that it’s an all-way stop.
11:04 AM: Kevin’s power was back on as of an hour ago but the map still shows the 134-customer outage. We’re headed over to check on the signal.
12:10 PM It’s working.
The flyer’s for another Seattle Public Utilities project that’s getting ready to start in West Seattle: Drain and pipe replacement along a section of 57th SW in Alki. SPU’s Brian Mickelson says work will begin in about two weeks. We asked for a few more details:
The project will replace 240 feet of 18-inch diameter storm drain, which will enable 6 side sewers to be reconnected to the existing 12-inch diameter sanitary sewer without sumps. Additionally, 40 feet of the existing 12-inch diameter sanitary sewer is deteriorated and will be replaced.
The 57th Ave project is part of SPU’s Sewer Rehabilitation Program, which focuses on repairing and rehabilitating sewer mainlines throughout the city, generally in city-owned street rights-of-way or city easements on private property.
As noted on the flyer, the work should take about a month.
SIDE NOTE: Reminder, SPU’s on-site info session about the SW Spokane Pump Station project in East Admiral is tomorrow (Wednesday, September 20th), 4:30-6:30 pm, as previewed here.
5:03 PM: Second West Seattle power outage of the day – and this time, it’s blamed on a tree. Seattle City Light says 22 homes/businesses are out along Delridge between Findlay and Juneau, with restoration estimated by 8 pm.
5:27 PM: This one also was restored long before the estimated time – outage map shows the power’s back.
3 PM: From the Seattle City Light outage map, that’s the area where 302 customers (homes/businesses) are affected – plus a couple spots along West Marginal Way SW – by a power outage that started about 20 minutes ago. Thanks to Billy for the tip; we’ve heard from others that the power flickered in some other areas. No word yet on the cause; restoration is estimated around 9 pm but again, as in all outages, that’s just an estimate, could be sooner, could be later.
3:55 PM: SCL says “equipment failure” is the cause, and has moved the restoration estimate to 7:34 pm.
4:44 PM: Power restored. Thanks to Dee for the update, saying the electricity was back in time to see the Seahawks win!
In case you’re not among the nearby residents to whom that flyer was sent – Seattle Public Utilities wants you to know that an informational session is coming up next week (Wednesday, September 20th) for improvements planned at the SW Spokane St. Pump Station in East Admiral. If you can’t see the embedded flyer above – read it here (PDF).
9:33 AM: Thanks to Ron for the tip. He says a “loud explosion” preceded the power outage that Seattle City Light‘s map says is affecting 81 customers. It started about 10 minutes ago; while the restoration time is estimated to be 5 pm, keep in mind that’s just an estimate and will likely change.
2:20 PM: Still out, according to the map, which updated the estimated restoration time a while back, to 3:40-ish pm. We passed a City Light crew on the west side of California near the outage zone while heading southbound a short time ago – don’t know if it’s related and couldn’t stop, but we’re checking for updated info.
ADDED TUESDAY: The power was restored Monday evening. SCL spokesperson Scott Thomsen tells us that the cause was failure of an underground transformer.
Announced late today by Seattle City Light – work that will close the eastbound bridge ramp to NB 99 for about five hours tonight, starting at 9 pm:
1:42 PM: Thanks to Mark for the tip: A power outage on Alki is affecting 146 customers, according to the Seattle City Light outage map – all residential, given the area that’s shown as affected. The outage is attributed to “bird/animal”; Mark reports that “a crow shorted out high-voltage wire, according to a contractor.” SCL currently estimates the power will return around 3:13 pm, but as always, keep in mind that’s just an estimate – could be sooner or later.
2:37 PM: The SCL map shows the power’s back. If yours isn’t, be sure to call to let them know – 206-684-3000.
If this water-service shutdown tomorrow affects you, Seattle Public Utilities says, you should already have been notified via a door-hanger. But just in case, here’s the full announcement:
About 103 customers in West Seattle will be without water for about 11 hours (Thursday, July 27th) while SPU performs water-meter replacement work. The shutdown is expected to last from approximately 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Affected customers have been notified of the shutdown by door hanger. The sections of main to be shut down are indicated below:
1. The 24 inch main in SW KENYON ST from 9TH AVE SW to 5TH AVE SW
2. The 8 inch main in SW CLOVERDALE ST from EAST TO THE END OF THE MAIN to
3. The 3-8 inch main in STUBS AT SW KENYON ST from NORTH TO END OF MAIN to
4. The 24 inch main in 5TH AVE SW from SW KENYON to GATEHOUSE ASSET NUMBER 7377
5. The 4/6 inch main in 4TH AVE SW from SW THISTLE ST to TO THE END OF THE MAIN NORTH OF SW ELMGROVE
6. The 8 inch main in SW Thistle ST from 4th Ave SW to 5th Ave SW
7. The 8 inch main in SW Elmgrove st from 4th Ave SW to 5th Ave SW
8. The 8 inch main in 5th Ave SW from SW Kenyon st to SW Thistle St
9. The 8 inch main with PRV on it SW Kenyon to the West
10. The 8/2 inch main in SW Kenyon st to the East
Sorry, no SPU map to accompany this – looking at Google Maps, the areas mentioned are north of Westcrest Park – but hopefully the SPU list above will help.
2:42 PM: Thanks to CJ for the tip – 81 homes/businesses are out of power in the Morgan Junction/west Gatewood area, as shown on the Seattle City Light map. No word yet on cause or estimated restoration time.
3:43 PM: The restoration estimate – keep in mind, this is not scientific, and it could come back much sooner or much later – is 7:28 pm. We’re told the problem involves a utility pole (City Light lists it as “equipment failure”) and have a crew in the area working to find out more. West Seattle Thriftway (WSB sponsor) tells us they’re not affected. But just to the south, the Shell station is – its pumps are currently taped off – as are the neighboring business New Teriyaki & Wok and Domino’s. McDonald’s has power, as do the businesses on the west side of California.
7:27 PM Three-fourths of those affected are reconnected – 21 still out.
12:51 AM: And those 21 are still out, with restoration now estimated around 4 am. Via comments and e-mail, we’ve learned more about what happened. The next two photos are from David Newell:
Another neighbor told us that City Light crews explained that the outage was “related to a rotten power pole that broke off while a Comcast crew was pulling new lines. The pole came crashing down in the alley and across the patio areas of the condos behind the strip mall housing Domino’s and the mini mart. So lucky no one was injured. The electrical hookup for one the condo buildings was severely damaged.” We’ll be following up with City Light later this morning.
7 AM NOTE: The rest of the customers did get their power back in the early-morning hours.
If you’ll be out late Friday night/early Saturday morning, and possibly Saturday into Sunday, you’ll want to avoid the east half of the West Seattle Bridge (aka the Spokane Street Viaduct). Here’s the alert:
Seattle City Light crews plan to improve electrical system reliability by pulling new wire over the top of the Spokane Street Viaduct near 2nd Avenue South.
To work safely, traffic will be reduced to one lane and the speed limit dropped to 25 mph in both the east and west bound directions of the Spokane Street Viaduct between 1st Avenue South and 6th Avenue South. See the work zone map below. Work will occur on Friday, July 14, and, if necessary, Saturday, July 15.
Drivers should expect slowdowns during this time.
Lane reduction details:
The nights of Friday, July 14 and Saturday, July 15 (if needed)
· Traffic will be reduced to one lane and speed limits dropped to 25 mph in both directions from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.
· Washington State Patrol and extra City Light equipment will be positioned in the work zone to promote safety.
· Access to 1st Avenue South and 4th Avenue South ramps will be maintained.
Once energized, the newly installed electrical wire will improve system reliability and add capacity to the South of Downtown (SODO) area.
ORIGINAL REPORT, 9:04 AM: Back in September 2015, we reported that Seattle Public Utilities wanted to turn the bus yard at 4500 West Marginal Way SW [map] into its future Drainage and Wastewater South Operations Center. At the time, the city was looking at leasing the land. We hadn’t heard anything more about the project since then, but a notice in today’s Land Use Information Bulletin shows the project has been proceeding. The notice includes this description of the project planned for the six-acre site:
The DWW South Operations Center Project would replace or upgrade the main building’s roof and exterior walls and mechanical systems, including heating and cooling, plumbing, and electrical systems. Exterior space improvements are expected to include installation of new buried utilities, repairs to existing stormwater piping and sanitary sewer facilities on and off-site, retrofitting paved areas with stormwater bioretention areas, adding a 40-foot-tall radio tower adjacent to the main building for dispatch and emergency services, installing solar energy and rainwater harvest systems, constructing several lightly loaded structures that would be used primarily for storage and parking, and removing and replacing existing paved surfaces in areas to facilitate site and utility improvements. New structures would likely be supported with new shallow foundations. Additional site improvements would include enhancing safety at an existing railroad and bike path crossing at the site entrance, planting additional trees, and adding up to four electric vehicle charging stations. The completed DWW South Operations Center would operate seven days every week, would be completely fenced, and would be accessible only to those individuals having required authorization.
An online timeline says construction is expected in 2019. The notice published today advises that there’s been a Determination of Non-Significance for the project, meaning SPU believes an environmental-impact statement is not needed. The notice includes two deadlines for the public – comments on the DNS are due by July 24th, and if anyone wants to appeal it, that has to be filed by July 31st.
The notice points to a website for the project but it has few details, so we’re asking SPU for more, including the site’s purchase price and the project’s estimated cost, as well as the “environmental checklist” to which the notice refers, which isn’t on that site yet, though the notice says it should be. Meantime, you can see a bit more about the design on three pages of the SHKS Architects website.
6:24 PM: Since our morning report, the checklist link has been added to the project website – scroll down this page. Also, SPU says the property was purchased for $11,550,000, and that’s included in the project’s estimated cost of $54.2 million.
10:09 AM: Thanks to Diane for the tip – 33 homes are without power in southeast Admiral, centered around 37th SW/SW Hinds. The Seattle City Light outage map says it went out around 9:12 am and that they’re still investigating, hoping to have power back on by 12:30 pm or so. (And as we always note, could be sooner, could be later.)
10:34 AM: And – everybody’s back on, ahead of that prediction.
Several people have asked about this, and we found confirmation on the Seattle Public Utilities website: Yes, if you are a Tuesday customer, there WILL BE regular solid-waste pickup tomorrow. The South Transfer Station is open, too. (Not its counterpart in the north, though – too close to the all-day-and-night Gas Works Park event.) We’ve added this info to our West Seattle 4th of July infopage.
Thanks to the person who just called to let us know: She’s seeing brown water in Seaview (she’s near 45th SW/SW Juneau), and it’s because Seattle Fire crews are continuing to test hydrants. She’s already contacted Seattle Public Utilities (their hotline is 206-386-1800) to be sure they know too. (Yesterday, it was west of The Junction; the day before, Arbor Heights.)
That’s the photo an Arbor Heights resident sent earlier today, wondering why their tap water was discolored. First thing to do if this happens to you: Call the Seattle Public Utilities hotline at 206-386-1800. We suspected it might have been related to hydrant testing, since Seattle Fire had tweeted this back on Friday:
Station 37 firefighters are out testing fire hydrants along 35th Avenue SW today. Join in by checking your home smoke alarms today. pic.twitter.com/ZBvMvYUJSJ
— Seattle Fire Dept (@SeattleFire) June 23, 2017
And that indeed is what the resident was told. But there could be other causes, so they want to hear from you any time there’s something unusual with your water supply.
The city’s Utility Discount Program is expanding, adding help for more seniors, as announced by Mayor Ed Murray in a media briefing today at the Senior Center of West Seattle, with Councilmember Lisa Herbold and Seattle Public Utilities general manager Mami Hara.
This has to do with seniors receiving Social Security and being on Medicare – 3,000 are not getting “the help they need or the help they deserve,” because some benefits are being counted as income even though they’re not, so the city is changing eligibility rules to make sure they can get it. This can save more than $1,000 a year per household, “making their lives a little bit more affordable.”
The city already had a push under way to make sure more people eligible for the program took advantage of it, and participation has more than doubled in the past three years.
Herbold – who chairs the committee that oversees SPU – said she first heard about this eligibility problem last fall, and is glad it’s been fixed. “Another change we made was for folks to qualify for time payments when they have past-due bills” – more people can get some time to do that. She says it’s a matter of “connecting problems that constituents face on a day-to-day basis with the policy work we do in the office.”
Hara said that SPU bills can be discounted 50 percent under the discount program, and for City Light bills, it’s 60 percent. The utilities are working to be “responsive,” she said. And those who sign up for this program only need to renew their registration every three years. Signing up also gets you free passes for transfer-station use, worth up to $145 a year, and free backyard collection of trash and compost for those who can’t get theirs to the curb because of mobility issues.
You can find out more about the Utility Discount Program by going here. Councilmember Herbold also said that the city will be retroactively reviewing those who have been turned down for the program to see if they’re now eligible.
SIDE NOTE: And if you’re a senior with other resource problems/questions – or have someone in your family who is – West Seattleite Irene Stewart from the Age-Friendly Seattle program tells us you can call the free Community Living Connections hotline, 844-348-5464.
The two buildings at Arrowhead Gardens that were without water after Monday’s pipe break will get it back this afternoon, if it’s not back already, according to a spokesperson for AG’s parent nonprofit Senior Housing Assistance Group (SHAG). We followed up after commenters raised concerns in the discussion following our original story. SHAG’s Karen Lucas tells WSB that water was expected to be back around 3:30 pm. While it was off, she says, those affected were able to use facilities in the two buildings that weren’t affected, and water and meals were provided. Eight units were evacuated and the Red Cross was brought in to help; Lucas says those who didn’t have relatives/friends to stay with were put up in hotels. Lucas confirms that the broken pipe is on their property so it’s their responsibility to fix, not Seattle Public Utilities (which is what SPU told us, too), and she said they’re still not sure why the pipe broke, flooding the underground parking area after, she was told, breaking through concrete like “a geyser.” She also wanted to thank the Seattle Fire and Red Cross crews who responded, for doing a “fabulous” job.
11:28 AM: Thanks for the tips – we heard from two people in Highland Park/Riverview before this big power outage even appeared on the Seattle City Light map. More than 2,000 customers (homes/businesses) are out.
11:37 AM: As the map shows, the outage also stretches into parts of White Center and South Park. The SCL map now has a restoration-time “guesstimate” of 2:31 pm – but keep in mind, could be sooner, could be later. We haven’t yet heard what caused it – if you’re seeing SCL trucks, please let us know, since that’s usually a clue. // And remember that dark traffic signals = all-way stops. Someone just messaged us to say there’s already been a crash at 8th/Roxbury.
12:07 PM: West Marginal/Highland Park Way is another major intersection with the lights out, and people “driving recklessly” as a dispatcher relayed a little while ago (monitored via scanner). SCL says a crash is what caused this and they’re still hopeful of having the power back on by 2:30ish.
12:38 PM: Added two photos from 8th/Roxbury – above, SPD is helping with traffic there (there’s a crash and a stalled vehicle); below, SDOT working with the signal box (and a generator).
12:43 PM: At least part of the area has the power back, per comment and texts, after about an hour and a half.
12:54 PM: The SCL map has updated and says the outage is about two-thirds of its original size – now 1,300+ customers, mostly south/east of West Seattle.
1:08 PM: Now down to 560+ customers out.
1:35 PM: And now just a handful.