UPDATE: Highland Park Way closed after tree falls, also causing big power outage

1:02 PM: Thanks for the tips. More than 3,200 customers lost power about 10 minutes ago in east West Seattle and South Park. No word yet on the cause.

1:06 PM: We’re just hearing about a tree down on wires along Highland Park Way – so that may be the cause. SFD and Seattle City Light are being dispatched. The tree also is reported to be blocking two lanes of traffic.

1:18 PM: Thanks to the reader who texted the pic of the tree. Police have told dispatch they’re blocking southbound lanes on Highland Park Way because of it – they’re also reporting more tree trouble as part of the hill slides. Readers say the outage has taken out the HP Way/West Marginal light too. Also, another reader tells us Sanislo Elementary is being dismissed early because of the outage.

2:15 PM: Added above, another view – sent by Stephanie – of the tree trouble on the Highland Park Way hill. Thanks for all the updates in comments, especially on the major lights that are out too. Also, traffic advice from readers: Avoid HP Way/Marginal entirely, with both the hill blocked and the signal out; also, a request: “Please put out the word to folks not to try to cut though on Austin St to get down Highland Park Way. You can’t get through.”

3 PM: Metro also has noted that Route 131 is routed off HP Way right now because of the blockage.

3:27 PM: SCL has reconnected the South Park side of the outage. 1,200+ customers still out on this side of the river. Here’s the area still out:

3:48 PM: And thanks to Arinna for this closer view of the fallen tree:

That photo is from just minutes ago, Arinna (who lives nearby) says, while also confirming that the hill is blocked to traffic both ways.

3:56 PM: Hundreds more just got their power back … total number still out is down to 960.

4:24 PM: And another hundred-plus are back on – down to 834 out. Reminder, Highland Park Way hill is still closed.

6:39 PM: SDOT says its crews are still working to clear the tree, as SCL works to restore power. The HP Way hill remains closed – here’s the nearest traffic camera (currently showing the barricades across the road at the bottom of the hill):

7:57 PM: Remaining power outage nearly halved – 441 customers now out.

8:14 PM: And now down to 77 customers. Craig, whose power was restored a short time ago, sent this photo of work continuing at the scene:

9:20 PM: Now everyone’s back on except for two customers. Also of note, the cause listed on the map – usually just a word or two – now says “landslide.”

11:59 PM: The Highland Park Way hill is still blocked off, 11 hours after the tree fell.

2:08 AM: As of a few minutes ago, the barricades were still up; now the camera at West Marginal/HP Way has just gone out of service.

8 AM SATURDAY: Camera’s back and shows the hill still blocked off.

10:40 AM: A reader talked with an SDOT worker in the area a short time ago and was told the road should reopen “in about 2 hours.”

2:32 PM: That obviously didn’t happen. We’ve since heard directly from SDOT and are publishing a followup shortly.

65 Replies to "UPDATE: Highland Park Way closed after tree falls, also causing big power outage"

  • newnative January 7, 2022 (1:05 pm)

    That explains the flickers here in North Admiral. 

  • Pdx77 January 7, 2022 (1:05 pm)

    Looking at the 911 calls I see a wires down fire call in that area.  Although I’m not listening to the scanner currently 

  • datamuse January 7, 2022 (1:09 pm)

    I heard some loud bangs from that direction when the power went, like someone had drop-kicked a dumpster.

  • Nick January 7, 2022 (1:23 pm)

    SPD just closed highland park way at marginal and all the lights nearby are out. People are definitely not treating it as a four either so be careful.

  • SPS educator at Louisa Boren STEM January 7, 2022 (1:33 pm)

    Just a heads up that the power is also out at STEM and Principal Ostrom has given preschool permission to let families know they can pick up their children early since there’s no way to run the HVAC/air purifiers. Other classes are currently continuing instruction using the emergency lanterns the PTA provided. There’s also a firetruck and several students streaming out of Chief Sealth High School currently. What a crazy way to end the first week back! Stay safe everyone. 

  • Martin January 7, 2022 (1:42 pm)

    Go figure one of the main roads in and out of west Seattle and the city does not take down trees that were rotten and threatened the power lines.what a total mess.

    • SlimJim January 7, 2022 (7:33 pm)

      Who says the trees were rotten? It seems entirely possible given the rains we’ve had that they were sound trees that toppled when the waterlogged ground slid.

      • kgb January 8, 2022 (9:13 am)

        Look at the photos: one fallen tree is completely white/dead, and the other larger one is completely covered in moss, a sign of diseased tree.

    • D-burger January 8, 2022 (5:29 pm)

      Martin – you can’t just cut down all the dead trees in a tract of forested land to make humans happy. Dead trees are critical habitat for many species of animal. You have to manage for multiple use. Also, where’s the money to do major tree cutting all over the city to eliminate each and every tree with any remote possibility of becoming or being problematic to a right of way? It doesn’t exist, and it’s not possible either.

  • sam-c January 7, 2022 (1:47 pm)

    Not sure why the SPD that had blocked traffic to Highland Park Wy didn’t start directing traffic.  It would be more efficient for multiple cars to go through at a time. and definitely saw drivers following the person (in front of them) through the intersection, instead of doing the 4-way stop thing.  SB Marginal Way traffic was backed up from that intersection to a little north of the Duwamish Longhouse (at 1:20)

  • Ses January 7, 2022 (1:59 pm)

    Why doesn’t the city bury the wires along highland park way?  This seems to happen way too often. 

  • NotrotteninWS January 7, 2022 (2:00 pm)

    Not all trees are rotten.  HPW hillside has been eroding for decades, so tree roots have nothing to bound to.  Too many of you driving thru our neighborhood quit complaining about the drive.  We rarely complained when they tore down South Park bridge for years or when the First Ave Bridge/HPW/W Marginal was a mess when they built 2nd bridge AND changed access to get on that bridge years ago.  Please take a seat, be patient.

    • Roy January 7, 2022 (2:09 pm)

      No, don’t try to pass this off as if nobody has any right to complain about problems that ARE absolutely preventable given that the problem is far too often recurring at the same general area because of extremely poor tree management. It’s pathetic when people who have lived in the area for a long time bring up old bullsh** as a way to dismiss completely valid current complaints.

      • Highland Park Native January 7, 2022 (2:34 pm)

        I’m sure there is a solution to this long term problem. The dilemma is when to fix it. Starting before the big bridge is fixed will undoubtedly impact HPW traffic again…one of the only ways in and out of West Seattle. 

      • datamuse January 7, 2022 (3:14 pm)

        It is true that hillside erosion is part of the problem here, though. The way the trees lean in from both sides of the road is indicative. And there have been slides there before. Also, a lot of the trees around here are alder and cottonwood. They’ll fall over if you look at them funny.

    • Um ok January 8, 2022 (12:34 am)

      Please give me a break! None of us that are affected by the bridge closure “WANT” to drive thru your neighborhood. What if there was no access South and everyone had to go North to West Seattle to get out?!? We are all citizens of West Seattle and we all deserve equal rights to the roads. A lot of taxes that we ALL have paid, not just Highland Park!! The blame lies with the city and SDOT!! The bridge should be fixed by now! But until then, we are all in the same boat! You have no more rights to taxpayer funded streets than anyone else! I’m guessing you aren’t a lifer either but more of a NIMBY!

      • kgb January 8, 2022 (9:41 am)

        I think one of the issues Highland Park “lifers” have is the difficulty we have turning onto Holden just to get in line to go down HPW. Holden is often a slow moving train of cars in both directions. Rarely does anyone pause to let me in, they speed up to block my turn onto Holden, or honk and flip me off if I pull out to ease myself into line. Please everyone, just be kind. Let people merge into line. One more car in front of you won’t make you late. 

      • Steve January 8, 2022 (8:36 pm)

        You certainly have the right to use the streets, but when people take my side street as a bypass when Holden gets backed you and numb down it like it’s the goddamn effing freeway we have a problem. It’s only a matter of time before there is a head I. Collision right in front of my house. Use the streets but slow your a–es down 

  • Deb January 7, 2022 (2:07 pm)

    Traffic signals and Lights also out at intersection with SR 99 and on-ramp onto NB 1st Ave Bridge. 

  • Jen January 7, 2022 (2:10 pm)

    Traffic lights at 1st Ave S and Olson Pl SW are out as well.

  • Susie January 7, 2022 (2:19 pm)

    Power is out at Louisa Boren STEM as well, no early dismissal at this time. 

  • momosmom January 7, 2022 (2:24 pm)

    We were sitting in line at the transfer station to recycle some motor oil around the time the power went out  and their lane arrow lights went out for a brief second then came back on but on our way home noticed all signal lights up Olson/Roxbury to 8th Ave SW were out. Transfer station was a little busy but not because of people bringing the missed household garbage.  It’s amazing how much gets thrown away…<img id="” src=”blob:https://westseattleblog.com/d5b2aa48-6cac-41b5-8709-14aa9c289285” alt=”Resized_20220107_130428.jpeg” type=”application/x-apple-msg-attachment” class=”Apple-web-attachment Apple-edge-to-edge-visual-media Singleton” style=”caret-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); color: rgb(0, 0, 0); opacity: 1;”>

    • momosmom January 7, 2022 (3:37 pm)

      UGH! SAORRY, Obviously my pic went wrong…way wrong! LOL!

  • Sgs January 7, 2022 (2:34 pm)

    Traffic is terrible in the area, avoid at all costs

  • Rumbles January 7, 2022 (2:39 pm)

    Somehow I don’t think this will be the last thing blocking Highland Park Hill over the next week…. all this water has to go somewhere.  

  • trickycoolj January 7, 2022 (2:41 pm)

    I seem to recall emailing CM Herbold after the last mudslide on HP Way what they were doing to make sure it was stable. But of course back then it was just for us non-downtown workers and south end dwellers so no one cared. Now that this is our main route out for everyone  what are they doing to make sure no one is injured in a mudslide? 

    • Vbmart January 7, 2022 (4:11 pm)

      They did put in some slope-stabilization measures after the last slide, but only in the area of that slide. 

      • DVD January 7, 2022 (8:56 pm)

        Are you talking about the ecology blocks at the toe of slope?  That’s more of a catchment feature than a stabilization feature.

  • Martha Hemphill January 7, 2022 (3:03 pm)

    Lights ard back on Thank you Seattle Light for working so fast.😊

  • Lola January 7, 2022 (3:08 pm)

    Traffic is a mess on the 1st Ave So bridge my son says.  If you can go So Park to get out of the mess.  Remember to take it slow and be kind to other drivers, we all want to get home in one piece. 

  • Lights back on January 7, 2022 (3:15 pm)

    Power back on at 13th and Thistle. Thanks to the crews for getting the power back quick.

  • Diane Tchakirides January 7, 2022 (3:20 pm)

    Power is back on at my house on 11th Ave SW in Highland Park.

  • Duane Atwood January 7, 2022 (4:01 pm)

    Still no power along Riverview park

  • Duane Atwood January 7, 2022 (4:05 pm)

    The timing on this could not have been worse. I had just about got the 3 inches of standing water pumped out of our finished basement. It’s the second year in a row that we have had this issue.

  • Monica Cavagnaro January 7, 2022 (4:35 pm)

    OK, enough! I live a block from the top of the hill. Will the city compare the cost of some careful rotten tree removal or do we continue to repair these lines???? What’s up? Can they think out of the box??? What’s the cost?? $$$ 

    • WSB January 7, 2022 (4:40 pm)

      Here’s how SCL answered that question for us in 2015. We have of course had multiple outages since then and will follow up again to see if anything’s changed in the 6 years since then …

      https://westseattleblog.com/2015/11/followup-why-power-lines-arent-and-wont-be-undergrounded-along-falling-tree-prone-highland-park-way-hill/

      • Craig January 9, 2022 (11:26 am)

        Thanks for sharing this link.  Maybe the conversation is worth revisiting?

        • SSL Quotes:”I’m told that the utility is aware of that area’s outages, and of course regrets the inconvenience, but City Light does not consider an underground system to be a viable solution for that area”.

        Questions: To what degree has SCL explored the underground options?  Possibly below lane or the SE sidewalk options?  Or even relocating the overhead lines to the more manageable SE side of the street? It’s a good thing that SCL is “aware”  and regretful of this situation but should this be a broader discussion/decision with so many of us effected and at risk for potentially longer power outages and road closures?

        •    As one person told me, these kinds of projects are not only enormously expensive, but also very complex. Some folks might think it’s just a matter of digging a trench and then installing power lines but it’s not that simple. There’s a lot to consider.

        Recent slides on HP Way are far smaller in scale than historic slides of the 20th century.  Given that likelihood that there will be larger slides that could cause much more damage and lasting disruptions, maybe these costs are something to quantify beyond “enormous”. 

        • Part of it is environmental. Crews would have to remove hundreds of healthy trees in the greenbelt area to make way for such a system, which in turn would damage roots of nearby trees. Also, by mayoral executive order, when crews remove one tree, they must replace with two suitable trees. Just making room for that scope of planting would mean thinning out hundreds of additional trees, adding to the cost to say nothing of aesthetic issues. Also, there are protected wetlands in the area, which further complicates it.

        The uphill (NW)slope of HP Way is extreme.   Trenching on the NW side is a bad idea.  I’m not sure what facilities, if any, are located on the SE side of HP Way(or if they could be worked around), but there is significantly less steep terrain and fewer trees to contend with on the SE side of the street.  Has moving the power underground (or above)  to the SE side of HP Way been considered?  Couldn’t more resilient “replacement trees” be used for needed slope stabilization?  Much of the hazardous trees and potential slides are on Seattle Parks property.   Can tree work be leveraged by Urban Forestry , SCL, and the Green Seattle Partnership?  

        • The other reason City Light would not consider an underground system viable for that area is our commitment to cost effectiveness. Even if you could somehow overcome all of the environmental issues, this would be a multi-million dollar job, using funds the utility simply does not have. Like everyone else, City Light has to stick to a budget and must make decisions and choices that are fiscally responsible.

        ” Would not consider” ??According to a 15 year old Times article, (https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/burying-power-lines-is-it-worth-the-cost/ )    the cost for underground utilities was about $1 million /mile.  How much did this cleanup cost SCL?  What does it spend annually for this stretch? How much to fix for the long term? SDOT recently placed $1 million price tag on a potential multi use trail along HP Way.  Could SDOT and SCL leverage design and construction costs in a collaborative project, creating a widened sidewalk/multi use path on the SE side of HP Way? Slides on HP Way will continue and could likely be much larger, as they have in the past.  Maybe these relatively small slides are a sign that we should be looking forward?   

        • WSB January 9, 2022 (1:02 pm)

          It’s definitely worth revisiting and that’s why I will be inquiring anew. I do imagine it would take some community agitation, though. I’ll also be looking up how many outages have resulted in the meantime…

  • Mike January 7, 2022 (4:36 pm)

    Traffic is the real issue.   A friend trying to leave WS said its backed up all along California Ave.  Good grief.   Get the SPD out directing traffic at all major intersection s.   

    • WSB January 7, 2022 (4:38 pm)

      They’ve been stressed citywide – in Magnolia, for example, there was a large contingent out evacuating residents after a hillside came down.

  • Riverview playfield guy January 7, 2022 (5:13 pm)

    Still now power on 12th Ave SW along Riverview Playfield. Got a fire roaring. Glad no rain is coming otherwise I’d be anxious about my sump pump.

  • Riverview playfield gal January 7, 2022 (5:56 pm)

    Is there any update on when we can expect all power to be restored? 

    • WSB January 7, 2022 (5:59 pm)

      Actual update? No. SCL always posts, and usually repeatedly revises, “estimated times of restoration,” but we ignore those as SCL admits they are not based on any actual assessment of the situation.

  • Riverview playfield resident January 7, 2022 (6:35 pm)

    Still no power here near the Riverview playfield area! But we have our candles out for light 🕯 

  • Mike January 7, 2022 (7:03 pm)

    If you are at your home in WS, I strongly advise you don’t try and leave the “island”. Traffic outbound, and of course inbound, is a total mess. 

  • Jois January 7, 2022 (8:23 pm)

    Anyone lost their xfinity internet service today due to power outage? Our internet has been down since 9am today. Thanks. 

    • Christina January 7, 2022 (10:46 pm)

      Yep, mine’s been out all day. 

  • Janelle Sosh January 7, 2022 (8:42 pm)

    Thanks to the crew that worked to get us power tonight! Janelle

  • bill January 7, 2022 (10:10 pm)

    Do we have any actual foresters here? Could selective thinning to encourage growth of healthier trees with more robust and deep roots help? 

  • JPlacer January 8, 2022 (5:04 am)

    I live nearby and use this route frequently. Trim or remove trees that could fall on the road. The trees are very picturesque all leafed out but they represent a hazard. Overall,  this road needs to be widened and made safer.

  • DJ Allyn January 8, 2022 (6:35 am)

    They NEED to open the lower bridge to all traffic whenever they have a major route closure like this.The priorities of SDOT have been completely out of whack for fifteen years now and it has been getting worse.  They let the West Seattle Bridge (and other structures) languish while they spent hundreds of millions on bike lanes and other nonsense.  Now their bad management has come home to roost and they’ve become a reactionary agency instead of a visionary one.

    • David McKay January 8, 2022 (9:11 am)

      Agree.   If the Highland Park Way hill closure becomes prolonged SDOT needs to temporarily open the lower West Seattle Bridge to ALL TRAFFIC until the hill is reopened to traffic.   

    • Roms January 8, 2022 (11:09 am)

      I agree with your statement on opening the low bridge as a workaround, but you’re plain wrong when you imply that bicycle lanes (and other things) are nonsense. They’re not. They prevent lives being lost due to distracted drivers, reckless drivers, etc.

    • Jen January 8, 2022 (1:54 pm)

      You better hope do you aren’t on your back in an ambulance trying to get to Harborview for some major medical event with thousands of other cars clogging the lower bridge. Get real.

  • P January 8, 2022 (7:35 am)

    Is highland parkway still closed?

    • S January 8, 2022 (12:25 pm)

      Unfortunately yes, or at least it was at 12:00pm when we were trying to leave West Seattle. 

  • Tracy L. January 8, 2022 (12:08 pm)

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    I’ve been a resident in this area for about 30 years. There have been slides and tree falls along Highland Drive nearly every year, causing power outages and road closures.

     

    I don’t know the cost of relocating the lines underground along this route but it seems that had it been done 30 years ago there would not be 1/1000th of the frequency of outages or cost for repair. What will the cost be for the next 30 years if they don’t change anything on this roadway?

     

    Come on City Light management. Get a clue.

  • LyndaB January 8, 2022 (12:41 pm)

    I happened to check Google Maps and it said it was closed until Jan 9th…Weird. 

    • WSB January 8, 2022 (12:43 pm)

      Maybe Google Maps uses GMT. Even at that, though, it should reopen before Sunday!

  • Kay January 8, 2022 (1:03 pm)

    Have you not noticed how they have narrowed huge numbers of streets? Reducing lanes, blocking with curbs, putting all sorts of obstacles like speed bumps and barriers up. In a real emergency we will not be able to evacuate. The bridge had problems for years but they let it go until it cracked. I avoided it for over 10 years because I felt the improper vibrations on it. Plus it was overloaded constantly. Has anyone mentioned the filth we who are now surrounded by freeways are suffering? I recently realized I am washing my glasses several times daily. The house is dirtier, inside and out. Everything is covered with exhaust filth. I think we should be compensated for the air filters, outside cleaning and health damage-especially during a pandemic that already affects the lungs! Of course the noise is bad, and I cannot leave my house except mid day because of the RUDE speeding dangerous drivers. I now have diverted bridge traffic on three sides of my street. The only good is we FINALLY got a decent light at 8th and Roxbury-that we asked for for TWENTY YEARS!

  • CarDriver January 8, 2022 (1:28 pm)

    As of 12:40 HP still closed. Traffic into WS was “normal”.  BIG backups getting out of WS. Backed up onto Admiral Way and Avalon was backed up as far as I could see.

  • ClaytonS January 8, 2022 (2:27 pm)

    I was on W Marginal and passed Highland Park Way around 1:50pm and it was still closed with no visible signs preparing to open. 

    • WSB January 8, 2022 (2:29 pm)

      I’m publishing a followup shortly, have since heard from SDOT. No official ETA yet.

  • Mark T January 8, 2022 (2:42 pm)

    Just finished a little jaunt, taking the right hand turn from Highland Park onto NB west Marginal. No sign of any repair happening, particularly the large wire bundle hanging very low over West Marginal. If you don’t mind another infrastructure insult please know you will have a few minute wait getting through the area.

  • Laurence Caille January 8, 2022 (4:01 pm)

    4pm: still closed

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