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Seattle City Light still doesn’t know why power failed

Seattle City Light still doesn't know what caused a major power outage on Sunday. (KIRO 7)

There was likely no sweeter sound than the power coming back on for more than 20,000 City Light customers in the dark for three hours in six Seattle neighborhoods Sunday.

“On any given day, we may see small outages here or there,” said Farrah Paul, City Light’s director of communications. “Unfortunately, [Sunday] it was a really big one.”

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The outage led to a 32,000 gallon sewage overflow on Mercer Island when the emergency power system temporarily failed.

It also forced many businesses to close and had fans waiting in the cold rain for a delayed UW women’s basketball game.

“Should we be able to rely on our electrical system to work?” Paul was asked.

“Absolutely,” Paul said. “And the good news is our electrical system does work. Yesterday was a big outage. But as most people will know, it doesn’t happen all the time. In fact, for most people it happens very infrequently, if at all.”

KIRO 7 put the question to University of Washington professor Baosen Zhang.

“Happens in every city, not just Seattle,” he said. “Every city.”

Zhang says Seattle is spared the hurricanes and other disasters that can destroy a city’s entire electrical grid. Moreover, all cities, including Seattle, are dealing with aging infrastructure.

Still, he says, he is working with City Light to improve its response time when the lights do go out.

“How do we do things faster?” he said. “For example, we don’t have to wait three hours. Maybe we’ll fix it in two hours. Maybe we can proactively take some preventions when the storm comes. We’re working on these kind of things.”

City Light says it could take several days to find out why the equipment here failed.

When the outage happened last May, it took eight days to get an answer.

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