February 1, 2011 in City

Spokane power outage blamed on contractor

Christopher Anderson photo

Visitors and employees found the doors locked and the Spokane County Public Safety Building closed after a power outage Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2011. The power outage extended across the north side of town.
(Full-size photo)

Electrical power was cut this afternoon to a broad area of north central Spokane, including the Spokane County courthouse campus, jail and Public Safety Building, after a contractor struck an overhead utility line.

Avista Utilities reported that 6,200 customers were affected by the outage about 1:23 p.m.

The outage was reported on the utility website as a series of at least three outages stretching from west Spokane, including Browne’s Addition, to northeast Spokane.

At 2 p.m., power was back on in Spokane County’s Public Works Building and other county buildings. Other areas were restored at the same time.

A spokeswoman for Avista said that the trouble was traced to the vicinity of a substation near the courthouse. A contractor working nearby struck an overhead telephone line, and that line whipped into two Avista lines, tripping the outage, said Debbie Simock at Avista.

The county 911 system remained in operation, said sheriff’s Sgt. Dave Reagan.

With outdoor temperatures in the low 20s, the loss of electrical power could become a serious problem in a short time as homes lose their heat.

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich briefed Spokane county commissioners on the blackout after power resumed. There was very little power in the Public Safety Building. The courtrooms upstairs were completely blacked out. District Court shut down.

“We couldn’t tell lawyers from defendants and judges,” said Judge Debra Hayes, “We had to, for the safety of the public, get those people out of there.”

Elevators, while operational, kept taking people to the wrong floors. Security scanners also were not functioning property, Knezovich said. “We had people stacked up and unable to get into the building,” he said.

Knezovich said he and Ron Oscarson, the county facilities manager, have asked department heads to report about what happened in their areas. He added that Oscarson also expressed concern that the safety building’s generators did not kick on as they were supposed to.

Traffic lights along arterials, including Monroe, Maple and Ash streets, were darkened by the outage.

Also affected by the outage were the Spokane Transit Authority shop and administrative office.

There are seven comments on this story. Click here to view comments >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email