FOLLOWUP: Here’s what caused last night’s West Seattle power outage

As covered here last night, more than 4,700 homes and businesses lost power in West Seattle last night for up to three hours. Today, Seattle City Light spokesperson Jenn Strang explains what happened: “Last night, crews determined the cause to be two wires that had become disconnected from their insulators and were laying on the cross arm at SW Brandon & 30th Avenue SW. This could have been the result of any number of factors – wind, weather, bird/animal, or environmental – but at the time last evening, we were not able to determine the exact correlation. Our staff and crews did a great job isolating the problem and restoring power to a large group in just a few hours.” This was the second sizable West Seattle outage this month; the previous one, early July 2nd, was caused by a suspected DUI driver hitting a pole and taking out lines at 47th/Admiral.

1:49 PM: Strang says on followup, “When crews were on site, they found two of three blown fuses, which is likely the cause of the outage.”

12 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: Here's what caused last night's West Seattle power outage"

  • PJ July 25, 2023 (11:46 am)

    Gunshots clipped the wires. They don’t want you to know that though.

    • WSB July 25, 2023 (12:36 pm)

      You saw this, or …? Anyway, I am asking about that.

      • WSB July 25, 2023 (2:00 pm)

        Here’s the reply from SCL’s Jenn Strang: “Last night’s outage was not caused by gunfire. When crews were on site, they found two of three blown fuses which is likely the cause of the outage. The noise of them blowing may have given the impression of gunfire. There have been instances in the past where gunfire was the cause of an outage, but they are infrequent. I’m only aware of one in the past twenty months since I’ve been with the utility.”

        • Gill & Alex July 25, 2023 (4:23 pm)

          Do they know what caused the fuses to blow?  Here at home if a fuse blows it means something else caused that and that needs to be fixed.

          • N7OEP July 26, 2023 (7:00 am)

            It’s in the story, wires detached from insulators and shorted to the crossarm. Shorted wires blow fuses……

  • BJG July 25, 2023 (1:46 pm)

    Does the grid seem a bit fragile when 2 loose wires put the power out to 4700 WS customers? Haven’t lived anywhere else, but over many decades this stuff was rare and only brought on by storms we still call by their names. Why so many recently? We’ve always had birds, squirrels, and crashes.

    • MB July 25, 2023 (2:00 pm)

      There’s always some point of failure that will take out some number of customers- the “win” here is that it only took out 4700 customers, not all SCL customers. There was a failure domain, it failed there and not anywhere else. Also, it only failed for a few hours, which is a mild inconvenience at worst. Systemic issues are much worse- when I lived in NY, we had 10+ outages a year, the worst being the 3 day outage in ’03. We’re so used to the power always being on. The last outage still stings, but it was a drunk driver going through a pole- not much you can do about that. This one was some piece of infra that broke. Pretty much par for the course. Of all the places I’ve lived, WS has one of the MOST reliable power systems.

    • HS July 25, 2023 (2:47 pm)

      I’m on the opposite side, I’m kind of amazed that, with such an enormous increase of population within the past few years and all the construction here, it doesn’t happen more often. Esp with wire theft and people intentionally damaging transformers. Plus many trees were damaged by drought a few years ago – so trees.

  • Admiral July 25, 2023 (2:27 pm)

    Must’ve been the rain.

  • Margaret C Botch July 25, 2023 (3:54 pm)

    Thanks for letting us know what happened. It adds to my confidencein the great work being done in West Seattle by Seattle City Light.

  • Max34 July 25, 2023 (5:25 pm)

    It always amazes me that folks are amazed that the power goes out. Have you never looked in the alleys or anywhere really in the neighborhood?  It’s spaghetti wires hooked into old stuff that’s draped between old trees.  I’m surprised the power doesn’t go out every day. 

  • Marcus July 25, 2023 (7:52 pm)

    The grid is old, old because it was built a long, long time ago.  We can not have a grid that is brand new as most people would like.  We can trim trees and replace poles yet there will always be weak spots.  Wind and rain can bring insulator tracking and failure.  Sometimes when a fuse blows the explosion can short the lines above.The grid in WS does not have the ability to automatically isolate a faulted section and transfer the healthy section to a healthy source.  Technology is available and modern equipment can be applied.  Seems like SCL relies on manual inspection and restoration which is standard, old school, yet standard.At least the commercial circuits along California Ave ought to be fitted with automatic isolation and restoration.

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