West Seattle, Washington
11:53 AM: We’ve heard from multiple people mentioning a Comcast/Xfinity outage in Arbor Heights. Not weather-related – this started before the thunder/lightning/downpour moved through. One person says the Comcast website shows up to 500 customers affected. We’re checking with the company.
1:23 PM: This doesn’t explain the timetable for the outage but Comcast tells us, “We had some equipment in the node damaged in the storm this morning. Techs are actively replacing, and it should be back online by 2 pm.”
3:36 PM: Comcast said they had it fixed by 1:42 pm – so if you’re still out, let them know (try a reboot first).
5:43 PM: Seattle Fire and Police are responding to the 3000 block of 34th SW [map] for a gas leak, and the response may cause traffic issues on the uphill (northbound) side of the Admiral Way hill, north of the bridge. The leak is described as having been caused when somebody doing work at the house hit a pipe; Puget Sound Energy is reported to be on the way.
5:46 PM: Firefighters have told dispatch that they’ve evacuated the houses on either side of the leak site, as a precaution.
6:04 PM: Firefighters report that PSE has arrived.
6:30 PM: The situation has been handled and SFD has told dispatch that all units will be clearing the scene.
When Seattle Public Utilities announced in May that upgrade work was about to start on Pump Station 38 in the 1400 block of Alki Avenue SW, one key thing was missing – final permit approval. Today they’ve sent notice that the approvals are finally in and work will start “as soon as” Monday, July 18th. As reported previously (and shown in the rendering above), the overhauled pump-station site will include an art installation. The $2 million project will be built by Harbor Pacific Contractors, Inc. of Woodinville; construction is expected to last up to nine months.
9:50 AM: Thanks for the tip that Westwood Village’s Staples store is closed temporarily – we went over to confirm and they told us they’re trying to get their systems back up after a “power hit” this morning. The Seattle City Light map shows a 9-customer outage on the north side of the center vicinity.
11:22 AM: We just tried calling to check if they had reopened yet and only reached a recording that said the store’s unavailable. If you happen to see it reopened, please let us know (texting 206-293-6302 or email firstname.lastname@example.org) – thanks!
4:40 PM: 78 homes are out of power north of The Junction, between (roughly) 40th and 41st SW and Charlestown and Genesee. Fire and police have been dispatched to check out what at least one caller said sounded like an “explosion.” Updates to come.
4:57 PM: One resident says his house was out for about 10 minutes but has power back. SCL’s map still shows 78 out. SFD apparently didn’t find anything at note, as its response has closed.
6:30 PM: Only one home is shown as still out. See comments below for neighborhood reports on what happened and how it was fixed.
8:31 PM: Thanks to Susan for the tip. 10 homes are without power in Upper Morgan. Susan reports, “Looks like and sounded like a transformer blew, in the alley between 38th & 39th and Morgan.”
9:13 PM: Short-lived outage, according to this update from Susan: “Wowser, they were quick. Truck got here 10 minutes ago and they are rolling out already.” The map hasn’t updated yet but Susan says the power’s back.
If you’re noticing discolored water in Highland Park, it’s not just you. Caitlin (near 9th and Cloverdale) reports it’s happening, apparently attributed to fire-hydrant work in the area. (That can often stir up sediment – aka rust – in the system.) Any time it happens to you, Seattle Public Utilities wants to hear about it – 206-386-1800.
As noted in this morning’s traffic/weather watch, we’re under a Wind Advisory alert until 8 pm, with wind out of the southwest that could gust up to 45 mph. Most of the power trouble so far has been elsewhere in the city, until about 20 minutes ago, when a tree took out power to more than 20 customers in south Morgan Junction/west Gatewood. If you see/experience weather-related trouble, once you’ve reported it to authorities, please let us know – text or voice, 206-293-6302 – thank you!
We’ve reported previously on the upgrades – and art – planned for Seattle Public Utilities‘ Pump Station 38, on the water side of the 1400 block of Alki Avenue SW [map]. Now, SPU has announced the work is expected to start within a few weeks, so it’s time for a reminder. The city says the flow through the station has increased in recent years, so the upgrade will “convert the current pump station from an airlift-type station to a more standard pump station … to reduce the risk of failure.” The project has been awarded to Harbor Pacific Contractors, Inc. of Woodinville, for $2,066,085, according to project manager Jonathan Brown. (That’s up from the $1.2 million estimate last year.) The work is expected to last six to nine months once it begins; the start was estimated “as early as mid-May” when a notice was sent out recently, but now, Brown tells WSB, it’s “looking more likely that it will be a late-May or early June start” as the contractor is still working on right-of-way permits. The work will require parking restrictions and Alki Trail detours for people walking/running/rolling.
The project includes art funded through the city’s half-century-old 1% For Art program, commissioned from Idaho artist Sarah Thompson Moore. We reported last year on the updated design (shown above), including a safety guardrail that the site upgrade would require, with or without art. The city says the art “seeks to create an engaging and thoughtful space that highlights the history of local Indigenous communities and their relationship to the land and waterways surrounding West Seattle.”
The Brace Point area south of Fauntleroy has underground electricity, and underground problems – with another outage just this past Monday. Finally, a major repair project that had been years in the making was supposed to start last year – Seattle City Light and its contractor even had a public pre-construction meeting in August. But then – major work never started. After questions from frustrated residents, we checked with SCL, repeatedly, and the answer was generally something about permit problems. Today, two residents reported that the contractor, Olson Brothers Excavating, had packed up their remaining equipment, with one worker telling a resident that they were pulling out and the city would have to put the project out to bid again. We asked SCL’s Jenn Strang about it – and she says yes, they’ll be looking for a new contractor, which means the work won’t resume any sooner than next year:
Over the past six months, we have been working through challenges with the Brace Point conduit repair project. In fall 2021, City Light encountered an unforeseen delay in issuing the notice to proceed (NTP) when it took longer to receive a required Department of Ecology permit than anticipated. During this time, a further complication arose with the contractor not being able to meet the Durkan administration’s policy for vaccine attestation for contractors working on City projects. As we negotiated with the contractor to ensure all requirements were met before issuing the NTP, our SDOT Utility Major Permit expired. With work delayed and the contractor’s non-compliance, we recently canceled the original contract.
We have been focused on reacquiring the SDOT permit. This process will likely take several months as we implement required design changes to comply with updated standards and coordinate review processes with relevant City departments. Once we have a permit in hand, City Light will proceed to advertise for bids, review submittals, and issue intent to award to the selected contractor.
City Light is working to expedite these steps to begin work as quickly as possible. The best-case timeline would allow issuance of an NTP as soon as early 2023 to late spring 2023. However, it is important to note that continued issues with supply chain and staffing shortages could create uncertainty with this timeline.
Even before all this, the Brace Point project was originally expected to start in 2020. At last year’s meeting with the now-former contractor, it was estimated that the work will last “two or three years” – once it begins.
It’s happening here at WSB HQ, just this past hour. We called the appropriate Seattle Public Utilities number – 206-386-1800 – and they noted ours was the fourth call they’ve received. They had no ready response but promised a call from a water-quality inspector. Discolored water is usually the result of sediment getting stirred up in the pipes – usually rust – but the cause can be anything from hydrant testing/use to a break somewhere.
12:43 PM: Thanks for all the tips! Power’s out for many – we have reports from High Point to White Center so far – South Park too. Seattle City Light maps more than 14.000 homes and businesses out in the early going.
12:54 PM: The total is holding steady at 14,000+. We were spared here at HQ in Upper Fauntleroy – just a flicker – but our server is running slow under the traffic spike; we’re also updating Twitter. Just heard on the scanner that this is believed to have been caused by a tree being cut and hitting wires in the 6700 block of 25th SW.
1:08 PM: Obviously with such a wide area out, there are businesses and schools out (please let us know, or comment below, if you have any specifics) – also traffic signals, so if you are out on the road, please treat those as all-way stops.
1:21 PM: Our standard power-outage reminder – though SCL’s map has an estimated restoration time, those times, as we’ve learned over 15+ years of covering outages (and also hearing directly from the utility), are NOT based in any specifics an generally are way off – restoration could happen a lot sooner or a lot later, so don’t base any decisionmaking on the estimate. Meantime, NO word so far of any early dismissals at affected schools.
1:47 PM: Other closures include Southwest Pool. … More on the cause, from SCL’s Jenn Strang: “A tree took down two feeders, which resulted in a large number of customers affected. City Light anticipates that we will be able to get the majority restored early this afternoon but there may be a smaller group of customers that will be out for a longer period of time.”
1:57 PM: South Park is back on (thanks to commenter Lesley for that news) – the SCL map shows that lowers the total of customers currently affected to about 13,000. (Added, commenter says South Park Library has reopened.)
2:06 PM: More power just restored, per texter and commenters in High Point and elsewhere. (Added) Map shows 9,000 still out. Here’s the updated SCL map:
Basically, most of the north half of the original outage zone is back on. Commenters note that’s brought some businesses and schools back on line, too.
2:20 PM: And as commenters are noting, even more are back on – now down to fewer than 400 customers still out.
3:07 PM: Texter sent this photo of the downed-tree scene:
Those who are still out are mostly in proximity to the scene.
3:14 PM: Southwest Pool has confirmed it too has reopened.
5:59 PM: SCL says everyone has their power back.
9:22 AM: Thanks for the tips. Another power outage has hit the Brace Point area, as shown in the Seattle City Light outage map screengrab above. SCL says 329 customers are out and is attributing the outage to “bird/animal.” Most past outages in the area have been blamed on the failure of underground equipment, which has long been scheduled for replacement/rehabilitation work that’s been delayed by what the utility says are permitting problems.
11:57 AM: We have an inquiry out to SCL for specifics on the cause; in the meantime, the map has revised it to “equipment failure” and downsized it to 160 customers.
2:48 PM: Still waiting for specifics from SCL. Meantime, the outage is mapped again at 329 customers.
3:42 PM: Since that last check, power’s been restored to all.
4:13 PM: SCL spokesperson Jenn Strang tells WSB, “The outage was due to a failed junction box. Due to the nature of the failure, it took some time to identify the fault. Once identified, we had to de-energize 169 additional customers to safely complete repairs. Repairs were made and power restored.”
The pandemic moratorium on city utility shutoffs has expired. So if you’re behind, you can’t just let it slide and hope nothing will happen – you’re urged to seek help. Here’s the announcement explaining how:
Seattle City Light (SCL) and Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) today announced new flexible payment plans and expanded assistance for customers who are struggling to pay their bills. Customers are urged to visit seattle.gov/UtilityBillHelp or contact the utilities immediately to learn more about their options. Both utilities offer flexible payment plans with no late fees for all customers, and for income-eligible residential customers, significant discounts and emergency assistance money are available.
“We know many of our customers face economic uncertainty that has been exacerbated by the pandemic,” said Andrew Lee, Interim General Manager and CEO of Seattle Public Utilities. “We are taking steps to ensure our customers are aware that assistance is available. We encourage any customer who is behind on their utility bill to contact us today for assistance.”
Approximately 8,500 SPU residential customers and 36,000 SCL residential customers are behind on paying their utility bills. About 1,200 SPU commercial customers and 4,000 SCL commercial customers are in arrears.
While the City of Seattle moratorium on utility shutoffs expired on Friday, April 15, SCL and SPU are focused on proactively engaging with delinquent customers to help them access assistance to get current on their bills. SPU and SCL will be communicating directly to customers who are in arrears to make sure they’re aware of resources available to them before beginning the process of shutoffs for non-payment. Customers who remain current on their payment plan and current bill will not be at risk for shutoff. Customers at risk of having their services shut off will receive additional, direct communications prior to a shutoff taking place.
“Many customers have struggled financially and made tough decisions about which bills to pay. We want them to know that there are options to help get them back on track and alleviate some of the stress through flexible payment plans or assistance programs,” said Debra Smith, General Manager and CEO at Seattle City Light. “Our aim is to get customers to a place where they aren’t facing shutoff for non-payment when the process resumes. We’re here for you and want to help.”
Residential customers can visit seattle.gov/UtilityBillHelp or call 206-684-3000 to set up a flexible payment plan and to find out what assistance is available to them. The City’s Utility Discount Program offers discounts of 60% off electric bills and 50% off water, sewage and solid waste bills for income-eligible residential customers. Utility representatives will also let customers know what types of emergency assistance money might be available to them.
Commercial customers who are behind on their utility bills may also sign up for payment plans. They are encouraged to visit seattle.gov/UtilityBillHelp, call (206) 684-3000 or contact their SPU or SCL representative directly for assistance.
To learn about other assistance for customers financially impacted by Covid, including those seeking assistance to avoid eviction, please visit City of Seattle resources.
Another West Seattle neighborhood is dealing with discolored water – this time, Pigeon Point. Thanks to Matt for the report. No water breaks in that area reported currently, so there are various possible causes – the discoloration is usually from “sediment” getting stirred up in the line, most often rust. If it happens to you, report it to the Seattle Public Utilities round-the-clock hotline at 206-386-1800.
5:06 PM: Suzanne reports her water “suddenly turned brown” just after 4 pm and wanted to be sure others in the area were aware. She called it in to Seattle Public Utilities‘ 24/7 line – 206-386-1800 – and they’re investigating, but anyone else experiencing this should call it in too.
5:33 PM: Suzanne got a reply from SPU – they’re attributing it to hydrant testing. That stirs up “sediment” in the lines (mostly rust).
3:14 PM: Thanks for the tips. Verizon phone customers are reporting trouble, not just here but in other states too, according to online reports. No official company statement so far. But some government agencies are starting to acknowledge it too.
3:36 PM: We inquired with Verizon media relations via email. The reply: “We are aware of an issue impacting voice calls for some Verizon customers. Our engineers are engaged and we are working quickly to identify and solve the issue.” (This is affecting our hotline too, by the way, so if you have a tip, text 206-293-6302, don’t try voice calling!)
5 PM: Sometime in the past 15 minutes or so (since previous attempts), our service was restored, both incoming and outgoing voice calls – at least as tested with the AT&T phone we also have in the house.
5:06 PM: We’ve also received an update from Verizon: “A fiber issue in the core of the network caused some of our customers to experience intermittent call failures today. The issue was identified and resolved by Verizon engineers and the majority of impacted customers should be seeing service as usual. If any customer is still experiencing lingering issues, please restart your device. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.”
If you’re noticing brown water in North Admiral, you’re not alone. One resident we’ve heard from has called the Seattle Public Utilities number for reporting problems 24/7 – 206-386=1800 – and was told others had reported it, and that the problem was apparently related to construction in the area. Water discoloration is most often the result of sediment stirring up in the line – primarily rust.
2 PM: If you’re headed to a business in the main White Center district, check first – as reported on our partner site White Center Now, 268 customers are without electricity because of an outage blamed on a balloon. (Thanks to Cindi for the initial tip.)
3:48 PM: Power’s restored, according to the SCL map.
More than a year ago, Seattle Public Utilities tore up part of California SW south of Morgan Junction to fix 55 feet of sewer pipe. Now they’re returning for long-promised “pavement restoration” work on California SW, between SW Frontenac and SW Othello [map]. SPU sent us the notice they say they’ve circulated to neighbors, saying work will start as soon as next Monday (April 18th) and last up to four weeks. Work hours will be 9 am-3 pm weekdays. This is close to Gatewood Elementary, and will have some traffic effects in the area.
Thanks for the tip. Just in case you experienced it too – we’re told some neighbors near Dragonfly Park in North Delridge had discolored water this afternoon/evening. It was reported to Seattle Public Utilities, and believed to be the result of hydrant testing in the area – hydrant use can stir up the sediment, mostly rust, in the water pipes. (It happened so much in the mid-2010s, SPU did a West Seattle-wide “flush.”) If you ever notice discolored water, be sure to report it to SPU at this 24-hour number: 206-386-1800.
5:44 PM: Flaggers are on 48th SW at Brandon as Seattle Public Utilities crews work on a sewer-pipe problem. Here’s what SPU tells us:
Today, near 48th Ave SW and SW Brandon St, a sewer pipe collapsed while Seattle Public Utilities crews were removing significant debris. This is an 8” pipe, which is on the smaller side.
In response, SPU crews are:
setting up a pump and bypass system to ensure sewer service
working to find the exact location of the break
preparing for a possible emergency sewer repair
We have no additional details repair timeline. Please anticipate possible lane closures, parking restrictions, increased construction traffic and activities, and travel delays in the area.
9:18 AM THURSDAY: SPU tells us, “Crews worked overnight to repair the broken pipe and restore service to the affected homes.”
That’s what the beachfront SW 98th street end south of Brace Point [map] is supposed to look like after Seattle Public Utilities finishes a pump-station upgrade that’s expected to go into construction next year. SPU is circulating word to the neighborhood that the project is now at 90 percent design; it’s a popular spot for sea-life watchers, so it’s of wider interest. The SPU facility there is officially Pump Station 71, and it’s part of the system that pumps sewage and stormwater to treatment plants further north. Along with upgrades to the pump station’s functionality, SPU says:
As part of this effort, we’ll be making some improvements to the shoreline street end as well. Some of the improvements include:
• Removing the guardrail and extending the useable street end 20+ feet to the east.
• Replacing the current bench as well as creating a pad for wheelchair access.
• Installing beach logs and adding native plants and new trees to enhance the natural area in the street end.
Construction will last at least six months and “could start as early as spring 2023,” SPU says.