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String of collapsed power poles in Tukwila were ‘severely weakened by decay’

Power poles collapsed in Tukwila back in April. (Tukwila PD)

A recently-released report details how rot that had gone undetected caused a string of power poles to collapse in a row in Tukwila in April.

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An outside investigation found the 26 collapsed poles were rotten, a number of them decaying because of beetles had eaten away at their cores.

The poles snapped during high winds back in April, crushing a car, and sending two people to the hospital. The incident knocked out power to more than 16,000 customers in South Seattle, Tukwila, White Center and Burien. The incident also closed both directions of East Marginal Way South.

“I thought I heard a boom and a flash, but it was all so quick,” said Linda Cook, who was driving with her husband, Tom. He said he saw a flash in his rearview mirror.

Seattle City Light owned the poles, which had last been inspected in 2016 by a third-party vendor.

A number of the poles were identified for replacement during the last inspection, but none were thought to pose an immediate public safety hazard.

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City Light will now revamp how it inspects more than 90,000 utility poles it owns in the region. At least 6,000 poles have the lowest strength rating and are in need of replacement.

It will look to address this through a series of measures, announced in a recent blog post:

  • Prioritizing and accelerating replacement of the weakest poles with a newly-assigned project manager
  • Hiring vendors to assist in the pole replacement process
  • Coordinating with the Seattle Department of Transportation to speed the process along
  • Adding funds to supports the project, taken from the capital improvement program

“This is an essential capital improvement program and I am prioritizing public safety above all else,” said City Light CEO and General Manager Debra Smith.

City Light will also be evaluating and updating the way rates pole strength, and the timeframe for maintenance.

KIRO 7 TV contributed to this report

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