West Seattle, Washington
Back in April, when checking on a notice received in one local neighborhood, we got first word that Seattle City Light was putting planned outages on hold. That’s ending, the utility has announced:
In April, as our community was observing Governor Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, City Light voluntarily paused all work that required an outage to minimize service disruptions to our customers.
Now, as we turn our attention to reopening and recovery, it’s critical that we resume essential critical infrastructure work to improve electrical reliability and ensure the safety of our infrastructure. Beginning June 8, we will resume critical work that requires planned outages.
Why Outages are Necessary
Planned power outages are important to maintaining and upgrading our infrastructure. Planned outages are necessary to ensure that City Light crews can complete their work in a safe, efficient manner. We understand that outages can be burdensome, and even more so as our customers are at home working, teaching children, and maintaining a healthy life during the COVID-19 crisis.
Planned outages are scheduled for a variety of reasons. Depending on the type of work, outages can occur during the day, at night or on the weekends. Our approach to scheduling planned outages is consistent throughout our service area. Safety, reliability and customer needs are considered as employees plan and schedule any outage-related work.
What Impacted Customers Should Expect
If a planned outage will be taking place in your neighborhood, you can expect to receive a notification at least five days ahead of the planned outage. The notification will be a door hanger, notice letter, or possibly an email for residential customers who live in an apartment complex or condominium building. The notification will contain detailed information about the planned outage, including the date, time, and anticipated duration of the outage. If an outage is cancelled or rescheduled (due to weather or other unforeseen circumstances), customers can expect to be notified about the change.
At this time, work will be moving forward for City Light’s Accelerated Pole Replacement Program. Crews are replacing aging utility poles throughout the utility’s service area to enhance safety and electrical reliability. For more information about this essential work and answers to frequently asked questions, please visit powerlines.seattle.gov/poles. Additional capital improvement projects and construction activities, including joint use work (e.g., telecommunications companies installing and maintaining equipment on our poles), will resume as work continues to restart across our service area.
To learn more about how you can prepare for an outage, please visit powerlines.seattle.gov/outage.
Utility-pole replacements are of a bit more interest than usual ever since an old pole came down withuut warning in Morgan Junction two weeks ago. So we asked Seattle City Light about that delivery of poles on the east side of Hiawatha Community Center on Friday, after Rob Braby sent the photo. SCL’s Julie Moore just sent the info:
The poles are not for one job. The contractor will be replacing poles at multiple locations scattered around the vicinity. As a matter of efficiency, they simply delivered all the poles (actually, eight poles, I believe) at one time and left them on a public right-of-way in advance of work that will begin this week. Our pause in planned outages remains in place, so there will be no outages with this replacement work. The old poles will be tied to the new poles and we’ll return at a later time when we will take a temporary outage to transfer the equipment and remove the old pole.
12:12 PM: 34 hours and counting for that power outage we first mentioned Thursday morning. It started around 2:30 am Thursday with 160+ customers, and doubled before noon. Here’s the newest info from Seattle City Light‘s Julie Moore:
As I noted yesterday, it can take longer to find the issue in the underground system than with an overhead system. We’ve had crews onsite since the outage occurred and late yesterday morning we did locate the issue – a direct buried cable that went bad. Direct buried means just that – it is directly buried in the ground and not within conduit (this is an older system in this location; we no longer install systems in this manner). Unfortunately, the bad cable is also buried 8 feet under the road, which makes it more difficult to access.
The number of customers impacted increased from 165 to 337 because we needed to expand the outage to safely make the repairs.
The crews just tested the initial repairs and the fix is not fully complete. We have to do some more investigation of the cable. Crews will continue until restoration is complete.
9:58 AM: Thanks to Jessica for the tip. 165 homes in the Brace Point area south of Fauntleroy are still out of power, after losing it in the middle of the night. We are checking with Seattle City Light about the cause. Xfinity service is also out in some if not all of the area, according to a tip from Nathan.
10:53 AM: SCL spokesperson Julie Moore tells WSB, “Crews are still investigating where the fault occurred. The neighborhood is fed through a underground residential distribution system, so crews are investigating each vault to see where the damage occurred and so they can identify the issue and make the repairs. This takes a bit more time than it does for an overhead system where it’s easier to pinpoint where damages occur along the power line or utility pole.”
12:14 PM: The SCL map now shows 337 customers out. (Thanks to Nathan for the alert on that.)
10:55 PM: Not fixed yet. Thanks to Hadlie for the photo (posted in comments) of SCL on scene. We’ll be following up again tomorrow.
10:56 WM: 12 hours later, still out – see comments for what neighbors are hearing.
12:13 PM FRIDAY: We’ve published a separate update.
5:17 PM: Just received this from Seattle Public Utilities:
Friday evening, May 22, Seattle Public Utilities will begin an emergency repair on a large, 16-inch water main that is leaking in West Seattle near SW Holly Street between California Ave SW and 39th Ave SW.
The repair work is expected to be completed by early Saturday morning, May 23, to avoid construction over the Memorial Day weekend.
In order to safely complete this work, crews must temporarily shut off water to about 65 homes in the area. Impacted customers will receive a door hanger from SPU on May 21 with information about the water outage, which starts at 9 pm on Friday, May 22 and ends at 5 am on Saturday, May 23.
The noisiest construction work will occur between 8 pm and 10 pm on May 22 when crews are breaking pavement to access the leaking water main. However, customers in the area may also experience some overnight noise while crews work to repair the pipe.
During the repair, if customers have questions about the work or their water service, they should contact SPU’s 24/7 Operations Response Center at 206-386-1800.
7:14 PM: We went over for a look and found the NO PARKING signs along Holly in the 41st/42nd vicinity, so looks like that’s expected to be the main work zone.
10:48 AM: Thanks for the tips. Seattle City Light is investigating an outage in the area shown on the map screengrab. 18 customers are affected, according to the SCL map, and have been without power for a bit over an hour.
11:54 AM: Outage over, reports Marc, who also sent that photo of a City Light truck wrapping up restoration work.
11:56 PM: As promised, we followed up on the utility pole that spontaneously fell onto California SW between SW Graham and SW Raymond on Sunday night. As reported here, no one was hurt, but a car was damaged. Seattle City Light spokesperson Julie Moore tells WSB that pole had been “identified for replacement”; it was last inspected three years ago. “We are continuously inspecting poles, inspecting about 10% of our 92,000+ wooden poles per year,” Moore said. “This means we inspect each pole about every 10 years. Pole longevity can vary widely based on the wood species, treatment, and the environment where it is placed. A typical modern pole should last 40-60 years.” She also says that City Light has since checked 10 adjacent poles “as a precautionary measure” and “they all appear to be in good condition.”
P.S. If you see a pole with a clearly visible problem (leaning, etc.), info on how to report it is in this WSB story from a year ago.
1:41 PM: We asked for a bit more info on this pole’s history: “That pole was placed in 1953. Prior to 2017, it was inspected in 2010 and given a P5 rating, which is the top in our 1-5 rating system. Following the 2017 inspection, it was given a P2 rating, which is why it was identified for replacement.”
Seattle Public Utilities sent us a community notice late today about repair work that might already be under way, as it was scheduled to start as soon as this past Monday, but in case it hasn’t: The notice says at least six weeks of emergency work is ahead to fix a pipe in the alley “between 36th and 37th Ave SW and SW Stevens St and SW Hanford St.” Service interruptions are not expected, SPU says, but adjacennt residents “might be asked to limit water usage” at time. There’ll be noise, heavy equipment, and construction traffic in the area. The work is starting on the south side of the alley and will move to the north after two weeks or so. Here’s the official notice (PDF), which includes project-team contact info if you have questions/concerns.
Earlier this week, we got a call from a reader concerned after receiving a Seattle City Light notice alerting to them for a planned daytime power outage later this week in Highland Park so a pole could be replaced. A 4-hour outage in the daytime might not have been a big hardship in the pre-pandemic days, but now a “residential” outage means cutting the power to many homes-turned-workplaces. So we asked SCL about it. Spokesperson Julie Moore tells WSB that the outage has been canceled and new notices about that were being taken around yesterday:
Seattle City Light remains committed to providing safe and reliable power while prioritizing the safety of our customers and crews. While important to maintaining and upgrading our infrastructure, we know planned outages can be burdensome, and even more so as our customers are at home working, teaching children, and maintaining a healthy life during the COVID-19 crisis. We’re temporarily adjusting our work to have the lowest impact on customers during this time.
As such, we are pausing all planned outages. Exceptions to this include emergency pole replacements where the work cannot safely be performed “hot”, emergency work necessary to restore service for customers who may be experiencing an outage, or to add a service connection for an essential facility (quarantine site, homeless shelter, etc.). As able, City Light will provide at least 48 hours advance notification for any of these situations.
Other pole replacement work will continue by placing new poles adjacent to poles in need of replacement and lashing them to the existing infrastructure, but we will wait until later to transfer services. City Light also will continue to do streetlight work and other work deemed essential as long as it does not require outages. Any work is in accordance with Governor Inslee’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy order and with protocols in place to meet all COVID-19 guidelines from the CDC, Washington Department of Health, and OSHA.
We will maintain this pause in planned outages at least through May 4, in alignment with the governor’s order. We recognize even as that order is lifted, many customers may continue to work or attend school from home. We will be thoughtful in our resumption of these activities, which are required to make repairs and upgrades to our infrastructure in a safe and efficient manner, and will do our best to work with customers to minimize impacts.
With everyone at home, more people might notice things such as discolored tap water. It happened to Jenny west of The Junction today, and she sent the photo. If it happens to you, here’s what to do:
Call Seattle Public Utilities at 206-386-1800.
They should be able to tell you whether it’s the result of a water-main break, or – as in Jenny’s situation – nearby hydrant testing. The latter often stirs up sediment (basically, rust) in the system, and that leads to tbe discoloration. After you’ve reported it, here’s what else to do.
This was so much of a problem a few years back that SPU did a major flush in West Seattle over the span of months in 2016 – read about it here. It’s important to let SPU know if you see it, because without so many reports back in 2016, they wouldn’t have done the flush.
10 AM: Thanks for the tips. 330+ customers south of Fauntleroy, centered in Brace Point, are without power. About a quarter of them have been without it since last night; the rest lost it last night, got it back early today, and just lost it again. We are checking with City Light.
10:02 AM: Some just got it back again.
3:25 PM: Just in case you were wondering – outage map shows everyone back on.
Thanks for the tip. If you’re in the High Point area and without water service, that’s why – a break near the library. A Seattle Public Utilities crew is now on scene but has no estimate on how long repairs will take.
On our way to The Whale Trail‘s event tonight at C & P Coffee Company (WSB sponsor), we noticed the usually well-lit intersection of California/Findlay was dark. Then we got a Twitter message about it during the meeting. We advised reporting it to Seattle City Light – that apparently had already happened, as we noticed those crews arriving just as we left C & P. Their work is focused near the southbound RapidRide stop on the southwest corner of the intersection, so be careful if you’re headed that way – in any mode – tonight.
Thanks to David for tipping us to this by sharing an email discussion he’s been having with Seattle City Light and others. As the utility continues to deal with increased wire theft – as noted by The Seattle Times recently – it’s working to fix the resulting lights-out situations on, under, and around the West Seattle Bridge (among other places). Part of David’s exchange with SCL included this reply from a utility employee:
On the West Seattle Bridge, the streetlight crew attempted to splice together the wire that is left in an attempt to restore power to the control cabinet. That attempt failed and the only option left is to replace the entire run. This would restore the two separate circuits that feed the control cabinet. This requires coordination with SDOT because they have some control wires in the same conduit which have also been cut.
In the meantime, we have a traffic control plan and a permit to make a repair to the undermount lights, this is scheduled for the overnight Wednesday, 2/19/2020. The bike path has three sections, east, Harbor Island, and west, that will be handled separately. The plan is to start on that after the bridge upper deck lighting is completed.
The update also noted that crews have been working “7 days a week since October to address theft-related outages.” We followed up with SCL spokesperson Julie Moore to find out more about what’s planned tonight. She tells us the main work is actually planned this weekend:
We’re working to energize the undermounts along the lower deck of the bridge, though may be able to energize some on the upper level as well. Work will generally occur between 26th Avenue Southwest and Delridge Way. We’re doing prep work over the next couple days, but the actual work and any necessary no parking/lane closures will occur between 7 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
A wider look at the wire-theft problem is under way as part of a city-budget action last November by District 1 Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who wrote about it here.
Thanks to Mary for the tip about that drilling crew at work in a very visible Fauntleroy spot – across from the church/YMCA, just south of the historic schoolhouse, right at a RapidRide stop. Shortly after her inquiry, we belatedly received this notice from Seattle Public Utilities, explaining it’s part of preparations for the Fauntleroy Creek Culvert Replacement Project:
When we reported on the project’s early-stage planning last year, construction was expected to happen in phases between 2021 and 2024.
12:35 AM: Thanks for the reports. Another power outage – so far we have reports from High Point and Sunrise Heights. Here in Upper Fauntleroy, just a flicker. Sounds like a tree might be to blame – we heard a dispatcher mention Sylvan/Myrtle, just east of High Point, and another texter mentions earlier tree trouble there too.
12:39 AM: This is now on the City Light map – more than 4,000 homes/businesses – screengrab added above.
1:22 AM: Just got a few texts saying power is restored in High Point. The map lags a bit, so we’ll see within 15 minutes or so if everyone else is back too.
1:39 AM: The map shows about two-thirds of the original outage zone is still out – now down to 2,700+ customers:
2:02 AM: Now down to just under 1,000 customers out:
2:37 AM: And now, 714 still out.
6:57 AM: Map shows that since then, everyone has been reconnected.
8:32 PM: Thanks to the texter who sent that photo of the pole fire that’s caused some trouble near Delridge Playfield tonight. More than 70 customers have lost power, according to the City Light map. And Metro has diverted buses off the Oregon/22nd route uphill from Delridge Way.
8:59 PM: Another texter says Oregon is taped off at Delridge and that the Delridge/Oregon light is out.
10:26 PM: Getting reports of a short power outage in multiple areas – have heard from Admiral, Upper (and lower) Alki, Snake Hill, Seaview, Hansen View, Junction, Beach Drive, Gatewood, Genesee Hill, Morgan Junction (still adding) …, Did your power go out and stay out? Let us know – otherwise we don’t yet know what caused this.
10:39 PM: Still nothing on the City Light map so apparently no one went out and stayed out. No obvious incidents on the 911 map, either. When something similar happened two years ago, it was eventually attributed to equipment failure.
P.S. We’ll be following up with City Light and will update with the cause (likely not until tomorrow).
ADDED FRIDAY AFTERNOON: SCL spokesperson Julie Moore tells WSB, “We were doing some work that caused a momentary (two-second) trip of a breaker.”
3:40 PM: A reader in Gatewood reports a water outage and says SPU is working on a break in Morgan Junction – might not be fixed until mid-evening.
5:02 PM: Photo added – the crew is working on California SW south of Fauntleroy.
11:46 AM: Just received two reports of brown water in Arbor Heights – 35th/102nd is one location mentioned. We’re checking with Seattle Public Utilities; we’ll update when we hear back. If you’re experiencing it, be sure to call SPU at 206-386-1800, even if you know someone else already has reported it.
1:40 PM: Just heard back from SPU’s Ingrid Goodwin, who explains:
SPU crews had to perform an emergency water-main shutdown around 10:30 am today on 35th Ave SW between SW 100th ST and SW 104th St to repair a broken water main. Water was restored (back on for customers) around 11:30 am. As you know, shutting off water can sometimes cause temporary discolored water for customers. As of about 1 pm, our Operations Response Center reports receiving one call from a customer in the area about discolored water.
Due to winter weather, residential garbage, recycling, and food/yard waste collections will be delayed by one day for the rest of the week. Solid waste contractors will run full operations today, picking up Tuesday customers.
Tuesday customers will be serviced today, Wednesday, with Wednesday customers serviced on Thursday, Thursday customers on Friday, and Friday customers on Saturday.
Monday customers who have carts out should bring their carts in and can set out double next week at no additional charge.
If your collection was missed on your adjusted set out day, please bring your carts in and you can set out double next week at no additional charge.
1:56 AM: Lots of reports of flickers (or slightly longer), in various West Seattle areas. So far we haven’t heard o anyone whose power went out and stayed out, and there’s nothing on the map, but apparently there was a related transformer problem in the 26th/Juneau area.
ADDED 12:32 PM: Thanks to K for the security-camera views of the flashes some noted at the time:
Those cameras are in the Westwood/east Highland Park area.
6:40 PM: Thanks for the tips. We just went over to confirm that West Seattle’s Whole Foods Market (WSB sponsor) is closed because of a power outage. The rest of The Whittaker and its businesses appear to still have power, however, and this outage is not on the City Light map, so we’re trying to find out what happened.
7:28 PM: Just called the store to check on the outage’s status and they told us the power was just restored and they’re reopening. Closing time will be 9 pm as usual.