As a kid, I kind of liked power outages – it was an adventure where we used candles! As an adult? Not so much. I need to make sure I am prepared, including updating my emergency kit. Do I have fresh batteries for my flashlights? Has the food expired? Are my gas cans full?
*If you don’t have a home emergency kit, checkout helpful tips here.
And when the power goes out, it is, at its best, inconvenient – just resetting all the clocks and timers is a hassle!
As the County Executive, I really don’t like power outages. I know many in our community are ill-equipped to deal with a prolonged outage. Most household budgets would be hit hard by throwing out a refrigerator or freezer full of spoiled food. Even more importantly, we have many neighbors with serious health conditions that rely on electrically powered medical equipment.
Winter weather in Pierce County brings enough challenges to our electrical power grid. That is why I was especially frustrated when the Grinch and Scrooge (not their real names) intentionally caused outages on Christmas Day affecting more than 15,000 residents in the Graham area.
Fortunately, Tacoma Public Utilities (TPU) and Puget Sound Energy (PSE) were able to get most of the power restored that day, but some were out for more than 24 hours. Attacking our power infrastructure is very serious and very dangerous. These guys needed to be caught and quickly! I was very concerned they might try to reprise their substation attacks on New Year’s Day.
But our Pierce County team was on the case! The Sheriff’s Department (PCSD) was on it from the start, with a strong team of detectives and patrol deputies. They worked hand in glove with both TPU and PSE utility crews. And then the team was expanded to include the Feds and Tacoma Police (TPD). We welcomed the resources of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF – not sure where the ‘E’ went in their acronym).
All that teamwork paid off for the people of Pierce County! On Saturday, December 31, the Grinch and Scrooge were arrested and are currently in the federal detention center in SeaTac (less than a week after the attacks), while other law enforcement teams are continuing to check for further accomplices. These two characters were charged with federal crimes and now face 20 years in prison. And those of us in Pierce County welcomed the New Year with our lights on!
Sadly, it could be years before the damage they caused at the four substations is fully repaired. Getting major electrical equipment manufactured has never been quick and it has been compounded by COVID-related impacts to the supply chain.
But the message has been sent loud and clear! If you attack the power infrastructure in Pierce County, our team is coming for you. We are coming quickly and not holding back any resources. And, you are facing serious time!
On behalf of everyone in Pierce County, I want to express my deepest appreciation to the team – PCSD, TPU, PSE, TPD, FBI, ATF. Behind all those acronyms are many professionals that sacrificed their holiday week to protect our community!
Thanks for reading,