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Outages that hit thousands of Seattle area homes are heat-related, utilities say

Carey Collins had planned for a Seattle heat wave years ago when he purchased an air-conditioner for his Wedgwood neighborhood apartment.

But at 7:35 p.m. on Friday, June 25, the power went out at Collins’ place, rendering his air-conditioner useless.

“That’s an unlivable situation,” Collins said. He compared his apartment to an oven.

“Every surface in my entire apartment is radiating heat,” he said. “I touch the wall. I touch the floor, the tub, it was all radiating heat.”

Collins is one of thousands of western Washington residents who lost power over the weekend, as Seattle and surrounding areas continue to shatter heat records.

Most of the outages have been heat related, said Julie Moore, spokesperson with Seattle City Light. “The heat is especially hard on underground infrastructure,” Moore said.

Electricity utilities are asking that customers conserve energy.

Since Friday night, outages have been scattered throughout the Seattle City Light service territory and mostly in underground systems, Moore said.

During a Sunday peak, Seattle City Light had about 1,700 customer meters without power.

Moore said it takes more time to find and repair underground equipment failures, and that heat impacts restoration speed.

“We are working hard to restore service quickly while keeping our employees safe in these conditions,” she said.

To escape the heat, Collins stayed with a friend who had an air-conditioner and electricity on Friday night. However, when he returned the next day on Saturday, after the Seattle power outage map declared his power was restored, the power went out again.

He threw the entire contents of his refrigerator away, and retreated back to his friend’s place.

“When I drove away from the apartment it said 101 [degrees] or so, and again I was unable to live in my apartment at that point,” Collins said.

Beyond Seattle, Puget Sound Energy, which supplies energy to Issaquah, Bellevue, Auburn, and Redmond, reported that outages left about 25,000 customers without electricity, and that the extreme heat was mostly to blame. Yesterday, as temperatures hit 106 degrees in Issaquah, 12,000 residents lost power.

The utility company said they saw seven times the volume of work orders over the weekend as they would on a typical June day.

The primary causes for the outages were: Vegetation, including trees and limbs coming into contact with power lines, and heat-caused equipment failure.

“We are in the peak hours of what is believed to be the hottest day of the week, we continue to monitor our system around the clock,” said Jarrett Tomalin, a spokesperson with PSE. “At this point, we do believe that we have enough energy to supply our customers’ needs—whether with our own generation or energy we’ve been able to secure.”

Power outages continued Monday afternoon. As of 3:30 p.m. Puget Sound Energy reported 127 active outages impacting 13,635 customers, including a large outage in Auburn.

The Auburn outage was caused by a tree that made contact with a transmission line. It caused 6,000 customers to lose power. By 4:40 p.m., power was restored.

The heat was also to blame for empty freezers at some grocery stores. KUOW staffers reported refrigeration issues at a QFC on 145th in Seattle, Ballard Market, a Trader Joe’s in Issaquah, and the Safeway in the University District. We called QFC and Town & Country, where store managers said the problem was not a power outage, but that air inside the store was so warm that the refrigeration could not keep up.