Chinatown ID gets ready for power outage
A planned 20-hour power outage in the Chinatown International District very late Tuesday through Wednesday will bring hardship and an outdoor carnival for some of those affected.
Seattle Times staff reporter
When the clock strikes 11 Tuesday night, 130 businesses and a little more than 200 residences in Seattle's Chinatown International District will lose their power for 20 hours as city crews install a new power feeder for the neighborhood.
For some businesses, that means closing for the day. For others, it means renting industrial-sized generators to keep food fresh.
And for the 176-unit Uwajimaya Village Apartments complex, it means installing 156 tap lights in hallways, bringing food to wheelchair-bound residents and throwing a daylong carnival outside so residents have something to do while the TV is off.
"You know, we thought: We are going to give you something fun to do, so you don't have to think about the power outage," said property manager Stephanie Carrillo, who plans on buying sushi, hamburgers and chips for 50 or so people who spend the day at home.
Parts of six square blocks will be without electricity as Seattle City Light crews install an alternative power feeder to give the neighborhood a more reliable power supply to prepare for future growth, including a planned streetcar line.
City Light declined to provide the exact boundaries of the outage.
"We would not want to increase any potential for criminal activity by highlighting an area that will be experiencing an outage for a specific amount of time," utility spokesman Scott Thomsen said.
Feeders are the crucial link between power substations and the smaller lateral lines that businesses and homes hook into. When a neighborhood has an alternative feeder, it means it can dramatically shorten unplanned outages and avoid long-planned shutdowns for maintenance, Thomsen said.
Once power is turned off, workers will splice the cable for the alternate feeder and weave in the smaller lateral lines.
The city polled residents and business owners in early May to determine the best time to kill power to the neighborhood before settling on one 20-hour outage instead of two shorter ones, said Thomsen.
"I'm glad they are doing this in one shot, to do this twice would have been terrible," Carrillo said. While most residents at the Uwajimaya apartment complex have been understanding, it is still difficult to go without power for nearly a full day.
Some elderly residents will stay with their children, Carrillo said, while one resident in the complex who uses an oxygen tank opted to get a hotel room for two nights.
None of the residents in the affected area are registered as owning life-sustaining equipment such as home ventilators, according to Thomsen, but the city still went door to door to double-check.
Carrillo said the Uwajimaya supermarket was able to get a generator, but other businesses decided to close for the day.
I-Miun Liu, who owns Oasis Tea Zone, said the costs of leasing and installing a generator to run his restaurant would have been too expensive, so he decided to shut down early Tuesday night and stay closed Wednesday.
But closing for the day won't be cheap."You think it is just closing down, but when you are talking about perishable goods, it gets more complex," Liu said. "You lose what you have to throw away and you have to make new stuff again for the next day."
Between throwing out food he already has, buying new food and lost sales, Liu estimates he will lose anywhere between $2,000 and $3,000 during the power outage.
"It's a big pain in the butt," he said.
Javier Panzar: 206-464-2253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @jpanzar