60 percent of downtown Seattle lost power in outage

Downtown Seattle's core lost power during a large outage — leading to dark intersections, traffic delays, and building evacuations.

Seattle City Light says that equipment failure at the Massachusetts and Union substation is where an equipment failure happened, triggering the power outage. It is unclear what caused the failure.

Quick facts: 

  • Seattle City Light tweeted 12,000 electric meters were affected (no customer count as of yet) during the outage. That's about 60 percent of downtown lost power. 
  • Locations that went dark included: Pike Place Market, Seattle's tallest building Columbia Tower, and Seattle Public Library.
  • Seattle City Light reported light was restored around 12:30 with a small amount of locations without power. 

Here's a Q&A about what we know:

When did the outage start? The outage started at 11:35 a.m.

What caused the outage? There was an equipment failure at the Seattle City Light substation on Massachusetts Street. It was not immediately clear what caused the failure.

In a news conference on Wednesday afternoon, Seattle City Light is forming review team to figure out what took place.

How far did the outage reach? The outage went from Elliott Bay on the west to Interstate 5 on the east and from Virginia Street in the north and south to Jackson Street.

Where can I see photos? Follow this link to see outage pictures.

When was power restored? Power for most customers was restored at approximately 12:30 pm. Power in smaller areas was expected to be restored by late Wednesday afternoon.

How many people lost power? Because of the outage, 12,000 electric meters were affected, according to Seattle City Light staff. They did not have a customer count immediately after the outage.

Were Washington State Ferries affected? Yes. A portion of the Seattle waterfront experienced a loss of power that affected Colman Dock, but all ferry routes were running after 12:40 p.m.

Was the Great Wheel stuck on Seattle’s waterfront? Yes. The Seattle Waterfront lost power, as did Seattle’s largest building, the Columbia Tower.

 

we got stuck at the top of the wheel cause the power in downtown went out ✌🏻️

A photo posted by Natalya Czosnyka (@natalyaleeczosnyka) on

How many people were stuck in elevators? Twenty-five calls for elevator rescues were received by the Seattle Fire Department. Crews only made 15 rescues, however.

This map shows locations of some of the elevator calls. 

Some people reported taking dozens of staircases at the Columbia Tower to leave the 76-story building.

KIRO 7 News reporter Essex Porter was at Seattle's Columbia Tower during the outage, where he talked to a woman who walked down the stairs.

Were there any injuries reported? No, not as of 12:55 p.m. Wednesday.

How was traffic affected? Traffic and parking enforcement officers were deployed downtown to assist with traffic control when four-way stoplights went dark.

After power was restored, traffic was clogged. It returned to normal around 2 p.m.

Was Harborview Medical Center affected? Harborview, the regional trauma center, kept power and continued operations.

Didn't we just have a big outage? The last big outage in Seattle happened early the morning of Wednesday, May 11. 

A raccoon knocked out power to around 38,000 homes in Fremont, Wallingford, Ballard, Queen Anne, and Magnolia.

You can see how the outages and restoration unfolded late morning and early afternoon in the timestamped updates below. 

[12:55 p.m.] A small amount of outages reported. According to Seattle City Light, small outages are part of the restoration process.

City Light tweeted power was restored around 12:30 p.m. Some establishments downtown tweeted that power has been restored.

[12:46 p.m.] Seattle City Light tweeted 12,000 electric meters were affected (no customer count as of yet) during the outage.

People at Seattle's Columbia Tower said the evacuation was orderly.

Many people had to exit the building by stairs because elevators were shut down.

[12:45 p.m.] Heavy traffic was reported downtown after power was restored.

Mayor Ed Murray activated the Seattle Emergency Operation Center in response to the power outage.

[12:31 p.m.] Power has been restored to downtown Seattle. Crews are still investigating the cause.

[12:21 p.m.] Multiple reports indicate that power is returning to the core. A councilwoman tweeted lights are back on at city hall.

[12:20 p.m.] Washington State Ferries sent this bulletin: A portion of the Seattle waterfront has experienced a loss of power which has affected Colman Dock, but all ferries are running at this time. 

The restrooms at the terminal are out of order due to the outage. Currently, the estimated time of restoration is 12:40 p.m.  

The Light Rail reports no issues with service.

[12:14 p.m.] WSDOT tweeted that tunnel-boring machine Bertha is not the reason for the outage.

[12:10 p.m.] Seattle police tweeted the approximate area for the outage is between Elliott Bay to Interstate 5 to Jackson Street.

[12:08 p.m.] A Twitter user told KIRO 7 News that people are walking down stairs from floor 36 of Columbia Tower to escape. Elevators are down in Seattle's tallest building.

[12:06 p.m.] Equipment failure is at Massachusetts and Union substation, but it is unclear what caused the failure. Estimated time of restoration is 12:40 p.m.

Meanwhile, social media users across Seattle are sharing pictures in the dark.

 

When the entire downtown loses power but you gotta keep working on that film score 😂 #filmmusic

A photo posted by BC Campbell (@bccampbell) on

 

Ping pong in the dark in our kitchen/copy room... #poweroutage #downtownseattle #thepioneersdidnthavepowereither #5thPaintYourWagon

A video posted by The 5th Avenue Theatre (@the5thavenuetheatre) on

[11:51 a.m.] The power went out at Colman Dock. Washington State Department of Transportation tweeted that ferries will act as generators and will power on/off-loading.

Customers may experience delays.

[11:50 a.m.] Users on the Seattle sub-reddit reported the outage in Pioneer Square. One person reported the elevators are down in Columbia Tower.

The entire downtown core reportedly experienced the outage. Police say they were deployed downtown to assist with traffic control.

[11:48 a.m.] The outage was attributed to an equipment failure at Massachusetts Street Substation. The estimated time to restore is a couple hours.

[11:40  a.m.] Seattle City Light tweeted about the outage.