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Seattle firefighters make 24 elevator rescues in power outage

The noontime, hour-long outage was caused by an equipment failure at a substation and affected thousands of people

By Martha Bellisle
Associated Press

SEATTLE — A noon-time power outage in Seattle’s downtown core turned intersections into parking lots, left people stranded in elevators and disrupted the city’s transit system.

The outage was caused by an equipment failure at a substation and affected thousands of people, according to Seattle City Light spokesman Tony White. It started about 11:30 a.m. and power was mostly restored by 12:30 p.m., he said.

It could take days to determine what caused the failure, City Light spokesman Tyson Lin said during an afternoon news conference. The outage impacted about 60 percent of downtown Seattle, Lin said. No injuries were reported, but Seattle firefighters had to do 24 elevator rescues, he said.

A fire spokeswoman told the Associated Press that in each case, fire crews determined the floor that the elevator was stuck and used a special key to open the doors and let the trapped people out. Many people reported walking down dozens of floors to reach the ground.

Lin says they have a team that is analyzing what took place.

“They’re reviewing any and all causes that could have caused the failure today,” Lin said.

Traffic signals through downtown were not functioning during the outage. The Seattle Transportation Department said although the traffic lights were working again just after noon. Drivers could expect long delays.

The outage affected people using the SoundTransit rail system. The agency reported that its light rail was temporarily out of service.

People who were riding in elevators when the power went out were stranded and put out calls for help, according to the Seattle online dispatch page. About 24 calls for elevator rescues were reported around town.

Seattle’s airport did not lose power, but some landline phones were down, according to a tweet by Sea-Tac Airport.