Power outage wreaks havoc in downtown Seattle

SEATTLE -- Thousands of Seattle City Light customers suddenly lost power Wednesday, stranding people in elevators and backing up traffic all over downtown.

Seattle City Light said several equipment failures sparked the outage, tossing 12,000 meters offline. Nearly 60% of the downtown core was without service.

Dark traffic lights sent Seattle Police scrambling to keep traffic flowing downtown. Traffic on I-5 also backed up during the outage.

“I work on 32nd floor, everything shut off all at once,” said Sarah Shafer who was working in the Columbia Center office tower. “It was kind of crazy.”

When the lights went out, elevators in several skyscrapers shut down, trapping people inside.  Firefighters handled more than a dozen elevator rescues in the city.

The stairway became the only way out of the Columbia Center, forcing workers to walk down dozens of stairs.

“It was a lot of stairs and about halfway down, the lights shut off, so that was kind of scary,” she said.

Lines at Colman Dock for the state ferry system also slowed to a crawl.

Some passengers said they had to wait on boats for about 15 minutes before they could disembark.

Other parts of the waterfront also lost power, forcing some stores to close early.

Imagine being on top of the Great Wheel when the power went out; that was the reality for about a dozen people during the outage.

Tourist Oscar Cervera said he almost had his wife convinced to go for a ride.

“I had to convince my wife that it was safe to go on here,” he said. “And she said no, let’s wait. So we waited around for a while and then it stopped.”

A manager at the Great Wheel said they were able to get everyone down off the ride by manually cranking the wheel.

Exactly what caused the outage is still under investigation. Seattle City Light said it is putting together a review team to figure out why power failed for so many customers.