Cindy Coyne, owner of Steilacooom Pub and Grill, isn’t happy about the forced day off her business will have to take this month when power is shut down in the whole town. Neither are her customers or other Steilacoom business people she’s talked with.
Coyne said she’ll have to close for the day and borrow a generator to ensure her food doesn’t spoil.
Such is life in the South Pierce County town, which will be without power for an entire workday Aug. 19. Crews will spend the day upgrading and maintaining the lone substation that feeds electricity to the historic waterfront community.
Tacoma Power is increasing the voltage on its transmission lines that flow into the Bonneville Power Administration-owned substation on the east edge of Steilacoom, and workers must upgrade it as a result.
The occasion gives workers the chance to perform maintenance on the substation that takes place about once every decade. The town also went a day without electricity in 1998 and 2008.
During the last outage, Steilacoom had the feel of a ghost town. Unknowing summer tourists were turned away at many businesses by messages taped to the door. The post office and other government buildings ran on backup power.
This month’s outage, which also affects Ketron Island, is scheduled to occur between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Aug. 19. The town is notifying residents by way of readerboard messages, its website and hand-delivered notices to businesses.
Redundancies built into power systems prevent this type of outage in most communities, Public Works Director Mark Burlingame said. But Steilacoom — Washington’s oldest town, at 159 years old — has no such redundancies.
“We just don’t have that luxury because we have a single point of entry,” he explained.
Burlingame said the town will run generators to ensure water keeps flowing into homes and sewage keeps pumping away from them. Generators will also keep railroad signals and the county ferry system operating.
Burlingame said oxygen tanks and other medical equipment usually have battery backup power, but if residents are concerned they can call the town for use of a portable generator.
Coyne, the pub owner, wishes the city would take a different approach.
“I think people would be a lot happier if they did (the work) at night instead of in the morning,” she said.
But Town Administrator Paul Loveless said the disruption on most residents would be greater and the power would be off longer if the work were done at night.