West Seattle, Washington
We apologize for, while tracking the events of West Seattle Unplugged ’06, slacking on one of our favorite things to do, keeping an eye on storefronts and permit databases to see who’s coming/going/changing around here. Two recent discoveries: The 2-story building at Westwood Village, north of Barnes/Noble, is apparently getting a “day spa”; and looks like we’ll soon have another location for coffee — 4800 Delridge, where the city permit info says they’re putting up a sign saying BUBBLES (any relation to Bubbles on Alki, whose site offers “business opportunities”?).
Just watched our recording of the Seattle City Council briefing with key bureaucratic types talking about the storm response. (We’re STILL waiting to hear … where is the mayor? He wasn’t even at this event; nor was the deputy mayor; a woman “from [his] office” was their delegate.) The P-I has posted its article but it doesn’t mention the most surprising thing we heard: City Light does NOT automatically know who’s got power and who doesn’t … its customers don’t have automated meters, hooked up straight to HQ, though City Light boss Jorge Carrasco mentioned a “pilot project” along those lines in High Point right now. The briefing also revealed the councilmembers got a surprise during the storm aftermath, finding out they could have been getting info for constituents by accessing some sort of web page on the city system listing all known outages. “I didn’t know you didn’t know about it,” Carrasco said, “but … you do now.” Nervous laughter ensued. One council member tried to ask why members of the public couldn’t have been allowed access to that page too, so at least they’d know their outage area was on “the list”; Carrasco’s answer seemed to boil down to, well, that page is MANUALLY updated, and maybe not entirely up to the minute, so putting it out there might have done more harm than good. (What do you think? When is more information worse than less? If you want to tell the council yourself, their public hearing on all this is 5:30 pm January 3rd.)
We were going to say that driving around WS tonight was “normal” — no major lights out, etc. — for the first time in more than a week, but the pre-Christmas craziness is making up for it. Crowds galore. Good for our local businesses, at least.
In post-storm notes … got e-mail from the office of local County Councilmember Dow Constantine (while Seattle City Councilmembers aren’t elected by district, King County Councilmembers are), saying he’s pushing for a “formal council review of the local response to (the) windstorm.” As for the city, haven’t seen anything yet about the outcome of today’s “briefing.” The video is now posted on the Seattle Channel site (with an ironic disclaimer about “diminished” audio quality because of an “unforeseen technical problem”).
Today’s storm-aftermath photo: proof some of the fallen trees in Lincoln Park are being cleared away; we spotted this pile in the central LP parking lot.
-E-mail tip says the Delridge lights (Brandon & Orchard) are finally back on. Will spin by post-dusk to see about the nearby businesses.
-Now that the power-restoration work is almost done, what about some of the other damage? We’ve seen city Transportation Department crews out taking care of some of the worst potholes. But what about the Thistle/Northrop sinkhole (which looks the same today as when we took the photo below, a couple days post-storm), which happened even before the wind hit full force last week? It’s still roped off but not so securely that a wayward child or animal couldn’t fall in. And how about the nearby stairs (built in 1955, according to the city photo archives), so well-known they’ve been written up for fitness fans? We’ll see if we can find anything out from the city; let us know if you live near there and you’ve got any scoop.
-The traffic light on Fauntleroy at the west edge of Gatewood Elementary is finally back on. Hope that’s good news for some of the pockets in that area.
-Lots of City Light crews on duty around WS today — could barely go half a mile without seeing more. Also interesting to pass City Light home base (on 4th just a bit north of Costco) and see the constant activity there.
-Update on the John’s Deli cow/bull/steer/bovine-whatever, courtesy of a comment on the original post: It did blow off during the storm but will be back. Hurray!
-Heard a good discussion on KUOW’s “Weekday” week-in-review hour while out and about (now available on the station’s site). One caller from the Eastside made the same point we and others had put forward: Yes, we know the mayor/governor/county exec can’t personally restore power, but having them out in the storm-disaster zones a lot sooner, doing the Clintonesque “I feel your pain” thing at the very least, would still have meant a lot. (The same caller also had the same observation about those leaders’ websites – not enough statements/info about the outages – suggesting their communications staffers might have been assuming, hey, if they’ve got no power, they’ve got no internet. We can testify to the fact that local coffeehouses were stuffed for days with folks who had no power at home but found a way to get online. Also keep in mind, those with power can call friends/relatives without power and tell them what they’re reading about what’s going on.)
Just checked the Seattle Channel site and indeed, they’ll be showing the special City Council storm/power briefing live at 10 am this morning (channel 21 on Comcast, at least in our neighborhood). Also looks like you should be able to watch it online; here’s the “watch live” link from the SC site. We can’t hang around to see it live but will set the recorder and watch for bloggable highlights later.
Anybody else feel like the storm, the resulting outage/damage/whatever happened at your place, and the ensuing uncertainty all took a bite out of the pre-holiday runup? By the time we finally got a chance to do a little shopping last night, the stuff our favorite gift recipients really wanted was gone. Sigh. And maybe today we’ll finally get the Christmas lights up. Not too many, don’t want to overload the grid. Speaking of which … City Light’s morning update says it’s down to 1,400 customers, and if you’re one of them, don’t assume they know you’re out, give them a call to be sure … 684-7400. P.S. When this is all over, it’s really going to be worth celebrating New Year’s, we think. So we’ve been collecting info on NY’s Eve events on our Holiday Stuff page, with several new additions last night; check it out.
In the Friday P-I, testy talk turns to whether trees close to power lines were adequately trimmed pre-storm. Elsewhere in the P-I, guest columnist Brenda Peterson, an Alki writer, muses about various aspects of powerlessness, including one we noticed and appreciated as well … how bright the stars seemed, on those streetlight-free nights. Small blessings.
That stretch on and near Fauntleroy, southwest of Morgan Junction, is still out, and now the City Light contingent is gone. One more pocket-let further east appears to be back, though — we just saw outdoor lights on at some of the Webster homes whose residents had been checking in with us (hope it’s good news for ALL of you). Another late-night note: Even if all’s well with your power supply, the city now wants to hear from you about damage to street signs and traffic lights. The phone numbers are here (though, oddly, no e-mail address or web form, which would seem more useful).
About 1,000 City Light “customers” got their power back today, according to a 5 pm radio report that puts the total number remaining at 3,200, and we just confirmed that at least two WS pockets are finally back — 57th off Alki, and that south section of Beach Drive. Passed two major deployments of City Light crews — one at the Beach Drive spot where a tree had blocked the road, the other on the Fauntleroy curve just southwest of Morgan Junction (we never did get around to putting up our weekend photo of crews taking on the tree that caused so much trouble there, so it’s below this post). One troubling spot where no progress is apparent — Delridge at Orchard; two gas stations and a few other businesses still dark, along with homes around them (north of there, Delridge/Brandon is still out too). One last note — a reader who wrote to Councilman Richard Conlin, who heads the committee that’s in charge of utilities, was told that besides the council meeting with City Light and others tomorrow morning, Conlin also is promising a public hearing on Jan. 3.
Commenting on a post below, a reader asks a question that also occurred to us while checking out the “Webster pocket” earlier — what happened to the
cow bull atop John’s Deli at 35th/Webster? Storm casualty, put away for safekeeping, or … ? If nobody out there knows, we’ll check. In the meantime, heading out for our early-evening pocket survey (even after so many years up north, it’s still weird to call 4:40 pm “early evening”).
Pounding rain, dark sky. Hours after a sunshine break. Only quarter till 4 and it’s almost dark enough to get a status check on the remaining WS pockets. No update on the City Light site since this morning. But another gov’t agency, the National Weather Service, wants your help … choosing a name for the storm. (Wind Wallop? Holiday Hell?) And in government-leader news, heard a radio report that Gov. Gregoire and County Exec Sims toured powerless Eastside spots today. Her home page currently headlines a “weather update”; his home page has one high up (but the headline story is still him getting an award); still waiting for word on the status of our mayor, whose page is topped with “emergency preparedness tips.”
-As of a few minutes ago: 2 City Light trucks still working at the Morgan Substation, same number at 31st/Kenyon (can only hope that’s good news for the “Webster pocket” nearby).
-If you are in any mood to attempt to laugh about this whole mess (heaven knows WE weren’t until after yesterday’s re-outage), Seattlest points us all to a drily amusing YouTube clip (note the apparent backstory about some people pretending to blame all evils on the recent Google/YouTube, aka GooTube, deal). Subsequently checking YouTube, we found more attempts at outage-related humor, such as this brief bit about the terror of techlessness.
Here’s what we saw: City Light truck briefly stopping on Webster, east of 35th; no crews seen in or around the Fauntleroy/Raymond pocket; a City Light crew parked briefly on Cali near Thriftway, sipping coffee and looking world-weary; plenty of activity near the Alki pocket (along 57th), where we snapped some of the out-of-town crews hired to help City Light (this one is from WAY out of town, note the locale scrawled on the truck’s side):
City Light’s latest online update, timestamped 10 am, says 4,900 customers are still out, 99% of the system is in service, and “the majority of City Light customers will be restored … by midnight.” Well, if you want to be technical about it, the “majority” has been restored for a long time (given a majority is anything past 50%). A reader in the Fauntleroy/Raymond pocket reports being told 17 crews are “in the area” working; we’re going to go see who we find where. One other interesting reader comment this morning, in response to questions about why the mayor hasn’t been making public statements — a reader claims the mayor’s reportedly “been ill.” If anyone knows that for sure, send us a note and we’ll keep it anonymous (which we do anyway with e-mail, as opposed to comments right on the blog, which are automatically anonymous if you choose not to “sign” your name); would love to know why he hasn’t been out in the still-out neighborhoods.
Fascinating tidbits in today’s papers revealing some factors in the slow restoration of power:
–This P-I article says Seattle City Light hadn’t done a fullscale drill (for this type of giant outage) in three years, though the reporter writes, “ironically, one was planned for today.” Really? Four days before Christmas? Same article mentions that the City Council and Seattle City Light bosses have a meeting Friday to start scrutinizing how things worked (and didn’t). Want to let the council know ahead of time what you think? Here’s how.
-Buried in this Times story is an even more revealing tidbit, highlighted below. (So will that change now? Maybe not, as later in the article, the SCL person bemoans the utility’s failure to “outsource” the way Puget Sound Energy does. Though SCL’s apparently “transforming.”)
When the storm struck, about 30 of Seattle City Light’s lineman positions were vacant, largely because of tight budgets, said Chris Heimgartner, the utility’s director of transmission and supply. That’s equivalent to a quarter of the utility’s 28 four-man crews.
A little breezy out there, but nothing close to windstorm quality. Meanwhile, a little bit of driving on the south end of West Seattle reveals that power crews had some success overnight: Morgan Junction is energized again (Ladro, Tully’s, Starbucks, Thriftway, the works, all are lit and open); the iight at 35th/Morgan is back in business; even looks like one of those “laterals” on Gatewood Hill just southeast of Thriftway may have gotten its power back in the process. A stretch of Fauntleroy southwest of M-Junction is still lights-out, though. No sign of any major overnight wind except recycling tubs rolling around on G-Hill.
… Well, no, actually, flashlights are better than candles. We prefer ’em since a candle-sparked house fire in childhood. So we set out tonight to see if there are D batteries to be found anywhere in West Seattle. Our non-scientific sample revealed: NO. Not even at the Harbor Avenue 7-11, for heaven’s sake. Other notes from Power Patrol: Morgan Junction and environs remain dark (including Fauntleroy almost all the way to L-Park), and now the Fauntleroy/Cali traffic cop’s gone (just a commute thing?); and no juice yet to 57th Ave SW, from just south of Alki Ave all the way back to the bluff — apparently the northernmost powerless pocket in WS. This situation is painful for everyone affected, but tonight we’re feeling especially blue for the M-Junction businesses smacked by today’s re-outage, particularly the indies like Pet Elements, Teriyaki & Wok, Abbondanza, etc. Hope they’re back up by tomorrow. We’re planning to rise early to check on things, if tonight’s weather (starting to rustle the bushes even as we type) doesn’t keep us up.
Guess we weren’t the only ones thinking a traffic cop would be a good idea at Fauntleroy/Cali … one is on the job there now. Otherwise, no progress in the re-outage that’s epicentered just east of the intersection (see midday photo below) … not only is M-Junction dark, so is a significant stretch of Fauntleroy heading southwest from there, plus the big stretch of Beach Drive before and after the original tree blockage. Maybe the re-outage is why City Light’s outage total went up between the early afternoon and late afternoon updates (was 5,300, now 5,900). Some are starting to ask, now that this crisis (and for those without power, it IS a crisis) is almost a week old, where’s the mayor? Especially considering so many of those still without power are right here in his back yard?
But first, one bit of advice from us … avoid the Cali/Fauntleroy intersection (M-Junction) if you can till you hear the power’s back (and we promise to keep checking) … as the evening drive home approaches, things are getting ugly down there, with ferry traffic, etc., and no stoplights to moderate. (Really wish they’d send a police officer to help direct traffic.)
Now, as for City Light … their outage-update page has some interesting new suggestions, such as “things to check if your neighbor has power but you don’t.”Ã‚Â And both SCL and some WSB readers urge you to keep calling if your power’s still out, instead of assuming they’re on the case. 684-7400 is the outage-reporting number; 684-3000 is the number for reporting downed lines. City Light says a little over 5,000 “customers” are still out; sort of seems like they’re almost all here in WS.
Thriftway is open (with low lights again, as was the situation during Outage I), but nothing else in that vicinity (poignant little handwritten signs are tacked to most business doors); City Light crews are still working like mad in that blocklet along Morgan on the store’s north side. Also noticed that the re-outage is stretching directly east up Morgan – the light’s out at 35th/Morgan. Elsewhere – for the person who asked about 32nd/Thistle, no problems there, we saw outdoor lights along 32nd in the blocks on both side of Thistle. Some other folks are e-mailing to ask us about their areas; we’ll check them out as quick as we can.
Looks like about half the re-outage area is back on. Heading south on Cali, up the hill, the first sign of power was an outdoor light at Cali & Austin. Morgan Junction businesses, still out. To the east, 35th/Thistle light was back. Someone just left a comment wondering about 32nd/Thistle — when we head out again in a bit, we’ll check that out. And we’ll keep you updated on Morgan Junction, where the substation area is still cordoned off. Funny how this sort of thing changes your mindset; we’ve laughed in the past about suggestions that emergency-preparedness kits make great gifts … just heard that pitch again on the car radio, and now we’re not laughing. At all.