Strong Windstorm Knocks Out Power to 74,000 in and Around Seattle, South End Especially Hard Hit

by Andrew Engelson

After a strong windstorm hit Washington state with winds of up to 70 miles per hour in the early hours of Wednesday, Jan. 13, more than 500,000 people in Western Washington lost power and could be without electricity into the rest of today. Numerous areas in South Seattle were still without power by midday Wednesday with outages hitting the Central District, Rainier Valley, Skyway, Georgetown, Beacon Hill, as well as Highline, Burien, and other areas of South King County.

Seattle City Light spokesperson Julie Moore said that about 74,000 City Light customers experienced a loss of power in at least 174 outages across the city. Puget Sound Energy (PSE), which serves much of South King County, said that approximately 315,000 customers across the state had lost power.

According to Moore, the South End of the city was hit harder, with 15 feeders affected by weather impacts as opposed to 5 feeders in the North End. By 1 p.m.Wednesday, about 27,000 City Light customers had yet to have their power restored.

“We focus first on restoring power to locations essential to life and safe[ty] such as hospitals,” Moore said. After that, the city turns its attention to repairs that can bring the largest number of customers back online. Moore did not have a breakdown of how many customers in the South End were impacted, and she could make no estimates on whether all residents would have electricity back on by the end of the day Wednesday. City Light’s online map as of 4 p.m. Wednesday showed that some customers in the South End might not expect power to return until after 7 p.m.

Seattle Public Schools (SPS) announced that it would cancel all online instruction on Wednesday and hoped to resume again on Thursday. In a press release, SPS said the outages “impacted about 30 percent of SPS staff and families, along with 13 SPS school buildings (where some SPS staff continue to work each day). Based on the significant impact of the outages, it was determined that district-wide live remote instruction would not be conducted.”

With the exception of Beacon Hill International Elementary School, meal distribution sites continued to operate normally.

Highline Public Schools remained open for online instruction, relying on previously published plans for families without power to focus on “asychronous activities at home,” said Catherine Carbone Rogers, a spokesperson for Highline Public Schools.

Based on an online map operated by Seattle City Light, more than 8,000 customers in Burien, which is served by Highline Public Schools, were still without power and unable to access online instruction. Seattle City Light serves some customers outside of Seattle city limits, including areas of Burien and Shoreline.

“We based our decision to continue school today on the fact that most of our households had power back by midmorning and that we have a solid plan and learning activities for students to complete if school is interrupted by a power or internet outage.”

Some employees working from home who did not have power had to make difficult choices. According to an internal email sent to the Emerald, the King County Sheriff’s Office told its telework employees they had three choices if they were without power today: They could either report to their regular work location, report to an alternate work site, or “submit a leave request to take vacation hours.”

King County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Tim Meyer said this was in fact the policy, but that the office’s approach to telework, the pandemic, and power outages was still ongoing. “I suspect the number of employees affected was probably small, and I trust they will work with their managers to come up with an equitable and fair solution,” Meyer said.

According to King County Executive Office spokesperson Chase Gallagher, most county departments are more flexible with employees who are unable to telework, saying “We’d consider each individual circumstance. It’s more like a snowstorm, though we don’t have a specific policy.”

To find out more on outages for Seattle City Light customers and projected times for restoration of power, visit the Seattle City Light System Status Map webpage. Customers can also call 206-684-7400 to report an outage or check the status of an outage at a business or home.

PSE customers can check the status of outages on PSE’s Outage Map and Resources webpage.

Andrew Engelson is a Seattle-based writer and editor who lives in the South End.

Featured image by Andrew Engelson.

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